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Hackathon Introduces Girls To Coding, Opportunities In Tech

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Around 50 girls spent 12 hours at Park City High School Saturday for PC Hack, hosted by the Park City High School Girls in Tech club.

Freshman Vanessa Angel came all the way from Carbon County with her friend, Keaira Funk, to participate in Utah’s first all-girl high school Hackathon—a marathon tech design event. Funk is more interested in coding than Angel is, but Angel had fun being creative with a team.

"I learned a lot about working with everyone and making sure all the ideas work together," Angel said. "Working in a group is probably the best thing you can do. If your group doesn't work together, nothing is going to get done."

Participants were separated into different workshops—user experience, research and programming—then they formed teams to create apps. Instead of receiving a crash course in coding, the teams used an analytics platform called Qualtrics to program.

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Treasure Mountain ninth grader Natasha Mayes was in a group called Team Giraffe, and they created a project called Love for Lunch. It’s a survey that every student takes at the beginning of each week to plan for the following week’s lunch options. Kids could choose mac and cheese for Monday, or maybe they’re planning to bring lunch from home instead. Based on survey responses, cafeteria workers could plan on how much mac and cheese to make. Mayes says it’ll help cut down food waste at Park City High School.

"After second lunch, the lunch ladies will come around offering people all the extra food," Mayes said. "So, we're trying to stop that, so we can save the school some money." 

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics show fewer than one in five women graduate with a degree in computer science. Mayes wants to pursue computer science and engineering as a career, and she hopes more women get involved in the field. She says more women aren’t in computer science because of a bias that forms when kids are young.

"Everyone's just told that girls are supposed to just be more about makeup and stuff, and that's what they see everybody older them to do, so that's what they're all about," Mayes said. "Boys get to see more games and stuff,  because that's what they see older people do, and so they play more games, and then they get into the tech side of things."

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At the end of the day, judges chose first, second and third place winners. Those teams’ projects included an app that sends out group study session requests; a survey students could use to report incidents at school; and a website that connects students with clubs based on their interests.

Emily Means hadn’t intended to be a journalist, but after two years of studying chemistry at the University of Utah, she found her fit in the school’s communication program. Diving headfirst into student media opportunities, Means worked as a host, producer and programming director for K-UTE Radio as well as a news writer and copy editor at The Daily Utah Chronicle.
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