Feeling G.R.E.A.T.: Grade 4 student starts a girls coding club

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UCWSEA Perspectives | 22 May 2019

At the young age of 10, Zara K already has an impressively full plate. She is a techie, a traveler, and not just a girl coder, but also the founder of an up-and-coming coding club set to be launched at UWCSEA East in August 2019.

Aptly named “G.R.E.A.T” (Girls Resilient, Enterprising and Amazing at Tech), the Grade 4 student hopes to spread her love of coding and tech with other young girls who are budding techies like her. Check out the following interview with the inspiring Zara! 

Tell us about yourself!
My name is Zara, I'm a techie, a traveler and I'm in Grade 4. I was finding it difficult to meet girl coders like me, so I started my coding club G.R.E.A.T. which stands for Girls Resilient, Enterprising and Amazing at Tech.

Why did you start this club? Why do you think girls need a separate club? 
There are many techies in the world but I wasn't hearing enough about girl techies, so I wanted to change that.

I think there aren't enough girls who code because coders don't see, meet and befriend each other enough, and there's next to no communities of school girls coding in Singapore, leaving girls who truly love tech and coding (meaning they are not forced by parents to do it) isolated and unsupported.

You see, being a coder is like being a swimmer or a pianist: the experience is unique and only our own community gets it. Only we understand how coders feel when they are frustrated trying to fix a bug, or when we’re super excited when we finally have a working feature! Without having this community, one feels alone but with it, one feels confident and unstoppable!

When did you start coding? What have you done so far?
I started coding two years ago. I did Code.org and now I code in Python. I’m starting to learn about data structures and algorithms now.

What do you love about coding? 
Well, it’s a great way to test out cool ideas, solve problems, and make new products. I’ve built a chatbot that helps kids and parents find cool things to do when travelling. I just really love to travel and think visiting other countries and learning about other cultures is awesome, but most kids don’t get the full travel experience.

What will G.R.E.A.T. do?
In G.R.E.A.T., we celebrate each others tech projects, support each other through the highs and lows of debugging and refactoring, and encourage each other in learning difficult concepts like data structures.

In G.R.E.A.T., everybody codes and enjoys it. Every week, we meet to work on our own coding courses individually, and support each other when we need help.

Once a month, we discuss a tech-fiction book or movie to see how tech will play out in the world because we want to make the world a better and not worse place with tech. For example, in Black Panther, we see that they had great technology but they weren’t sharing it and the enemies were using it to destroy the world. The same technology can be used in many ways.

Who are your role models?
My role model is Ada Lovelace. In Grade 3, I dressed up as Ada Lovelace for UWCSEA’s Flash and Freeze day. I think she’s really cool because she was the world’s first programmer. She wrote the algorithm for the analytical machine by Charles Babbage.

How has UWCSEA been supportive?
Well I was inspired by the Girls in Tech club at UWCSEA Dover started by a group of high school students and Disha Mohta, one of the co-founders, really encouraged me! When she came to UWCSEA East for the SEASAC games, she gave me advice and always answered my questions over email. My UWCSEA East teachers - my home teacher Mr. Howorth, the Design and Technology teacher Mr. Weaver, and the activities head Mr. Deeth were all super supportive that I can start this club. Some of my friends have already joined G.R.E.A.T. as they are coders too. In fact, we just did a Micro Hackathon at UWCSEA Dover and we won! Woo hoo!

Congratulations! Anything you want to say to prospective members?
I encourage each girl who loves coding to come join us! G.R.E.A.T. is a girl coders community. We’ll be meeting at the Design and Technology Lab at 3pm every Thursday starting the new year. But you have to really love coding and fill out the application form which is here.We want to make sure that students are not forced by their parents but have a true passion for tech!

What’s your vision for G.R.E.A.T.?
I hope G.R.E.A.T. will be a community for school girls all over Singapore, and who knows, maybe one day for the whole world. I want the club to get bigger each year, and I want to see our members do lots of hackathons, build projects, and make the world a better place together! I love the UWC mission and I want to use tech to unite people for a better and sustainable world with my girl coders community! :-) 

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