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Rails Girls Kuala Lumpur: Opening the world of coding to girls

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We need more girls. Over the past 15 years, the global community has invested a lot of effort in engaging and encouraging females to actively participate in science-related industries, however, the current numbers are not promising.

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly declared 11th February the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The objective of this day is to celebrate females who are leading innovation, at the same time, to create awareness for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in science.

What else can we do? How can Malaysian parents find more inspiration for their daughters?

Photo credit: Linda Liukas Instagram

Parents will be thrilled to know that there is an organisation like Rail Girls KL to introduce women and girls to the world of coding. Inspired by the work of Linda Liukas, one of the founders of Rail Girls, the Kuala Lumpur chapter is part of a global network that teaches women and girls programming.

An inspiring figure, Liukas also authored Hello Ruby, a whimsical children’s book about the world of computers. She founded Rail Girls in Finland with Karri Saarinen in 2010. They aim to make technology and computer programming more accessible and approachable to girls. With a presence in more than 300 cities, the movement is fast gaining momentum.

Rails Girls KL was founded by Malaysians Sher Minn and Wunmin Wong back in 2017. Both now reside overseas and the current organising committee consists of Lindy Lim and Michelle Ler.

Lim is a recent A-Levels graduate who is continously seeking to improve her programming skills. Ler is currently pursuing a computer science degree. They organise free workshops that cover an introduction to technology, basic programming, sketching and prototyping. Considering they are actually volunteers with Rail Girls, their efforts are incredibly inspiring! These workshops are conducted with support from sponsors and experts from the industry who act as mentors to participants.

Lindy Lim (in blue) mentoring the girls in a 2018 workshop. Photo credit: Rails Girls KL Facebook.

Some of the past programmes they have conducted include collaborations with Women Who Code in 2017 and 2018 for the Hour of Code. The workshop was aimed at youth from ages seven to 17. Rails Girls KL also organised a workshop called Ruby on Rails in 2018 which attracted over 140 applicants! Unfortunately, due to limited space, they had to limit the number of participants to 60. The youngest was 16 years of age and the oldest being in her 50s!

2019 Coding events by Rail Girls KL – Come one, come all!

  1. March/April: Rails Girls will be partnering with mapping tech company HERE Technologies to conduct a workshop on JavaScript which will be open to all ages.
  2. June: School holidays workshop targeted at teenagers aged 13 to 17.
  3. December: Hour of Code workshop in collaboration with Women Who Code and Google developers. This workshop will be targeted at younger audiences.

Details of the events above are unconfirmed. Do follow Rails Girls KL on Facebook for further information.

Why coding?

As science and technology continue to permeate every aspect of our lives, being digitally literate is becoming more of a basic necessity.  In the simplest definition, coding is about developing a series of commands for the computer to follow. Imagine having that skill at your fingertips, the possibilities are endless!

Even if your child may not end up with a tech-related career, learning to code offers a lot of other advantages:

  1. It improves critical thinking and problem solving – When a child codes, they break down a complex problem into smaller, more manageable parts. This encourages logical and computational thinking.  According to Dr. Dan Crow, Chief Technology Officer of Songkick, computational thinking “will help you understand and master technology of all sorts and solve problems in almost any discipline.”
  2. It encourages creativity – By giving simple commands to the computer, kids are encouraged to experiment with various outcomes. This will inspire the child to be more curious, question assumptions and hopefully gain more confidence to explore their creativity.
  3. It develops resilience –  Plenty of things can go wrong when you code. But what better way to build perseverance than working through the challenges faced. Coding teaches kids to be resilient in dealing with failures and to see that it is not necessarily a bad thing. Instead, it can be an opportunity to learn and simply bounce back.

If your child is too young to attend coding classes or workshops, you can always nurture the interest and start with STEM toys. Provide the opportunity for your daughters (and sons) to learn about technology and the way computers work. Hopefully, this will give them an advantage later on in life.

 

Liyana loves eating, reading and traveling. With young kids in tow, sometimes she's just content with doing all three vicariously through other people's Instagram accounts.

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