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Students practice coding basics with an Hour of Code
Working on coding with their laptops in a Wonder Woman themed Hour of Code session, are, clockwise from left to right, Lola Barry, Setra Statham, Bella Robinson, Aurora Archibald, Loivia Kantor and Aliya Glover. Photo by Hall Anderson

Daily News Staff Writer

Before a group of girls took their seats to participate in an Hour of Code, they did the Wonder Woman pose — standing with their feet wide apart, shoulders back, hands on their hips and staring confidently forward.

Johanna Collins, a computer scientist and trained Code.org computer science fundamentals teacher, said the three-minute pose that the group did on Friday is meant to encourage young girls and build confidence.

As a part of the Hour of Code week that ran from Dec. 4 through Dec. 10, students from 185 countries in 45 languages participated in coding, learned the fundamentals of computer programming and played different themed games.

Collins said Disney has released many different themed coding games, including one based on the movie “Moana,” a Disney film released in 2016 which topped Apple’s “Movie of the year” list.

“Some of them are starting out with block coding,” Collins said. “They drag blocks over to make their characters move around the screen. A lot of it is maze-based projects.”

Friday’s group was a Wonder Woman girls-only session, but was only one of six different sessions available this past week. Other sessions integrated coding with the homeschool robotics team and teaching elementary school students the basics.

Ellowyn Beimler, a senior at Ketchikan High School, was able to participate in the Wonder Woman event, where she learned how to make single-player computer games.

 “I really enjoy making the world move the way I want it to,” Beimler noted. “I like making up games, I like role play games — so now I can turn my games into a digital game and my friends other places can play them as well.”

Kayhi junior Emerald Goodman also took part in the Wonder Woman event, and it was her first time coding. The Wonder Woman themed coding game had the students move blocks so Wonder Woman can get to the end of the maze and save the village.

Goodman said coding is a lot easier than she thought, because all she had to do was type a command in the computer and Wonder Woman would move where she wanted her to go. She added it’s important for young people, especially girls, to learn computer science.

“Most of the men are doing it now,” Goodman said, “and we need more women to learn it and be more a part of it instead of just having men do it.”

PACE Statewide Correspondence School and FastTrack Virtual School teamed up to hold the sessions, which ultimately saw 40 students, ages 8 through 18, participate. Volunteer coaches included Collins; Carena Wood, an administrative assistant at Fast Track; and Lori Ortiz, FastTrack Home School coordinator.

The nonprofit organization Code.org was founded five years ago by two brothers from Iran, who taught themselves coding and started the program to encourage young people to learn how to code, according to Collins.

“Their focus is to encourage coding to girls and underrepresented minorities, because there is a shortage of coders in the industry,” Collins added.

Companies like Microsoft and Google support Code.org, and more than 100 partners have joined together to support the coding movement. According to Collins, every Apple store in the world has hosted an Hour of Code.

Additionally, former President Barack Obama wrote his first line of code as a part of this campaign.

Collins explained computers are everywhere, changing every industry on the planet — but less than half of all schools teach computer science. Girls and minorities are severely underrepresented in computer science classes and in the tech industry, she said.

“Good news is,” Collins said in an email to the Daily News, “we’re on our way to change this.”