Every Thursday for the last few weeks my friend Andy (who runs the Southend Raspberry Jams) has been running an online meetup for girls aged between 9 and 19 to get together, talk about and work on various programming projects. For the first meeting I came along to give a short presentation about AstroPi, a national competition run by the UK and European Space Agencies and the Raspberry Pi Foundation, which I have always been a very strong advocate for participating in! In the meetings since I have been helping Andy run the meetings.
I’ll give a rundown of the first meetup to give a general sense of what they’re like:
Throughout the day, a group of us worked on various coding activities. We could work independently and the join back together to discuss what each of us had made. Yesterday in particular as a group we looked at Turtle using EduBlocks and machine learning using Scratch, something that definitely wasn’t around when I was using it in Year 7!
The set-up was nice and simple: participant joined a video call where Andy would talk us through the schedule/what we were going to work on next. The call also had a chat where people could ask questions. Alongside this was a google document containing a schedule and links to websites the activities were on. I didn’t see any issues with this set up, bar the occasional forgetting to take myself off mute in the call before speaking!
There was also presentations by girls on things they had made. I think this is a good idea because I’ve always thought people will be far more encouraged to create when they have people to show it to. Not to mention having support and feedback (including help with any technical issues) is such an important part of computer science. I enjoyed presenting, though I would say I was a bit more nervous than usual as when screen-sharing my Powerpoint, I couldn’t see anyone’s faces so I couldn’t see their reactions, but I’m pretty sure it went well.
In later meetups there have also been speakers who have been able to share their own experiences in technology and answers any questions asked by the girls.
I think events like these are especially important for keeping the brain stimulated and active during times like this when it’s particularly easy lose focus. I also think it’s very easy to become quite isolated under these circumstances and I enjoyed being able to speak to a new group of people. Normally I’d be mixing with a wide range of people/meeting new people on a regular basis which I’m now unable to do, and this is where the strengths of the internet lie: in connecting strangers (with common interests in this case).
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