Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Google Outreach : Diversity and Service in Coding

Google Scholars hacking at
"24 Hours of Good : NYC 213"
I decided to do a post about the opportunities I've been given here at Google to give back to the tech community--I’ll also be posting in the next few days about my stay here in MTV, but I wanted to wait until I’ve gotten a few fun pictures of the Googleplex to show you!

I have had some awesome chances to participate in outreach while here at Google: I taught Scratch to high school girls, have given tours to college students, and volunteered at the 24HoursOfGood hackathon. Not only were the programs easy to find and volunteer for, but I was intrigued to find that Googlers are encouraged to sign up for them, even when it means that they'll have to set work aside for most of the day.

A Scratch screenshot!
The TechGirls program is incredibly cool; twenty-seven high-school girls from nine different countries in Africa and the Middle East come to the United States for a three week period to meet people in the tech industry.  It’s designed to encourage diversity and allow girls to explore fields that aren’t as easily accessible to them in their home countries.  For my section of the day, I taught them how to make a quick game using Scratch--Scratch is an MIT developed program for teaching younger students how to code, by removing complicated syntax and allowing students to focus directly on the logic. I have used the program in my introductory course, taught it to my mother's elementary school students, and Google uses it for programs like this. Scratch uses a lego based structure such that students can 'drag and drop' chunks of code, quickly constructing working programs that have three components: scripts (the code), sprites (characters), and backgrounds. The program we made was simple, merely a counting game that tracked how often you clicked a character.

After the talk, I had the chance to have lunch with the girls.  It was such a cool experience to hear their stories about life in their countries, and I felt lucky to be able to share in their experience of coming to the states (most of them, for the first time).  They were so excited by all the things they had seen in NYC and DC, and even gave me a coffee tumbler to thank me for presenting!
Tech Girls 2013: I grabbed this photo from their FB page, wish I could
have found one from their day at Google!
24HoursOfGood was awesome in an entirely different way.  The idea is to match a group of  students with non-profits to create apps that help the non-profits succeed in their mission.  The students were mostly my age or older, and I was volunteering to assist teams technically: a slightly terrifying concept when you are an undergraduate intern being asked to help people who have already completed their degree.  However, it was a great time, and I was surprised that I had a lot to offer and was able to make a difference by being there.  After I helped one team work through some tricky JavaScript and HTML5, we celebrated with some delicious ‘bison burgers.’  Everyone had a great time, and even though the teams were competitive, the real prize was the awesome apps that were created for the different non-profits. 
24 Hours of Good Explanation

Google Scholars and technical volunteers
enjoying some delicious bison burgers!
(Countdown to completion: 23 days)

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