A local group that teaches girls how to code for free received a big boost from Whitefish philanthropists Jamie and Michael Goguen last week, when the couple donated $50,000 to the cause.
Code Girls United said the donation of $50,000 will be used to support the organization in general, which is still volunteer-run and free to the girls who take the classes.
Girls in fourth through eighth grade can participate in Code Girls United, which teaches the fundamentals of computer science and then builds on those foundations to move on to inventing real-world apps.
It’s a way to keep girls invested in STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math — and most, if not all, jobs in the future will include some piece of technology or coding work. Smith said parents can think of Code Girls as a free preparatory school for their girls in this regard.
When the girls learn the basics of coding, taught through the App-Inventor tool, they break into teams and figure out real-world problems that need solving. They conduct market research, create a business plan, complete the development and design process, write the code for their app, and then present their app in a final demonstration.
The teams also go to competitions at local, state, and regional levels.
Marianne Smith, who helped launch the Flathead’s branch of the Code Girls in 2016, said the donation would also support the upcoming Northwest Regional App Challenge, taking place at Flathead Valley Community College on May 11 and 12.
“We are hosting because the folks who were running the state competition are no longer hosting,” Smith said.
The donation allows for scholarship prizes for the winning teams: $5,000 for first place, $2,500 for second place, and $1,000 for third place. Just like the program, the May event is free and open to girls who have completed a coding project, such as an app, website, or robotics. They have to present their project like they would at a science fair, Smith said, and if they make the semifinals, they then make a presentation in front of a panel of judges.
It helps if the coding in the project is used to solve a problem, Smith said.
Otherwise, the Goguens’ donation will give the program some breathing room, and the means to expand and educate more Montana girls.
“We are very excited about the donation because it should help us plan strategically on our next move to get our program out to more Montana locations, including under-served and tribal areas,” Smith said.
For more information on Code Girls United, the NW Regional App Challenge, or enrolling a child in the program, visit www.codegirlsunited.org, email Marianne.Smith.CGU@gmail.com, or call 406-407-0201.