These girls cook up homemade apps

The YWCA’s Build Your Future camp exposes area girls to careers in technology

lpemberton@theolympian.comApril 14, 2014 

Twelve-year-old Leonie Thome of Lacey spent the first day of her spring break building a computer.

“It was actually pretty easy,” the Nisqually Middle School seventh-grader said.

Thome was one of 18 middle school girls who participated in the Build Your Future spring break camp last week at the YWCA of Olympia.

During the camp, the girls built computers using Raspberry Pi technology, designed apps, visited the Intel museum and office in Hillsboro, Ore., and heard about careers from women who work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

“The projects they’re doing are very focused, and it’s more high level technology-focused skills,” said Hillary Soens, executive director of the YWCA of Olympia. “Our goal is that girls learn about careers from different industries from women in those programs.”

The camp was part of the YWCA’s Girls Without Limits, which offers monthly events, two two-week summer camps, a Winter Summit and several after-school programs. The YWCA offers scholarships for many of its youth activities, including the five-day technology camp, which costs $130.

“There are lots of opportunities for girls to get involved,” Soens said. “Every month we have something.”

Girls Without Limits reaches about 175 middle-schoolers in Thurston County, according to Lanessa Inman, Girls Advancement director at the YWCA.

The spring break camp’s projects were ambitious. On the first day the girls built credit card-size computers, plugged them into laptop monitors, and used the Scratch program to code some basic animation.

“I really liked making the computers,” said Lily Storbeck, a sixth-grader at Reeves Middle School in Olympia. “That was fun, and it was very easy.”

On Tuesday, the girls studied how tablet applications were designed. They talked about the purpose of different apps; several of the girls said most of the programs were much simpler than they had expected.

“It’s something they use every day, and they’re getting to understand what’s involved in those,” Soens said.

Betsy Speare, the director of product and engineering at Seattle’s Health123.com who has worked in the tech industry for about 20 years, encouraged the girls to pay attention to the colors used on an app.

She pointed to a video game app that used mostly dark colors for certain characters to convey certain moods to players.

“There’s nothing on the screen that you’re looking at that’s by accident,” Speare said.

Later in the week, the girls began creating their own apps.

“We’re thinking about some problems that are happening in the world, and designing apps to address those issues,” said Kaylee Lm, 10, a fourth-grader at Madison Elementary School in Olympia.

Thome said she enjoyed the camp’s focus on technology.

“You get the full picture of how it works,” she said.

Help support the YWCA

What: Spring into Action, a benefit luncheon to support the YWCA of Olympia, featuring guest speaker Thurston County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela.

When: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. April 24.

Where: Indian Summer Golf & Country Club, 5900 Troon Lane SE, Olympia.

Tickets: $35 a person, or $280 for a table of 8.

Information: 360-352-0593.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 lpemberton@theolympian.com @Lisa_Pemberton

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