A few weeks ago I shared with you IBM’s partnership with Girls Who Code, supporting summer immersion programs in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley Labs, Austin, and New York City. We are a little past the midway point of the Girls Who Code summer program, so I wanted to update you on some of the girls’ experiences and feedback so far. Libby Ingrassia, IBM’s coordinator for the summer immersion programs, traveled to each of the camps and sent me this update.  Thanks Libby!

Los Angeles

Girls from Los Angeles camp with the Mayor Our Los Angeles camp graduated on July 27, showing their final projects to their camp-mates, teachers, family, IBMers and the team at Boyle Heights (where the camp was held). Local IBMers were proud to support the Girls who Code event as camp mentors and speakers. From design thinking and Bluemix workshops, to spending time with their IBM mentors, to coding the day away, the girls had a very busy summer.

Diane Guth recently coached the girls on how think more positively, by visualizing the positive and negative thoughts as healthy or burned out trees in their brains. To train their brains for positive, successful thinking, they “pluck” one of the negative thoughts, then brainstorm ways to turn it around.

Some of the highlights of their summer included a visit from the Mayor and a trip to USC’s Institute of Creative Technologies. This week I got a preview of some of their final projects, including websites for building tolerance and recognizing unconscious biases, along with a site for helping seniors learn technology as a way of keeping them from feeling isolated. They used an idea wall and group brainstorming sessions to select the projects, and launched the projects with research into the pros and cons of similar sites. Look for a review of their final projects when we wrap up our series at the end of the summer.

Silicon Valley Labs

At the Silicon Valley Labs, the girls are just getting started on their final projects. The Bluemix workshop inspired a team of girls to pick a Bluemix-Watson final project! They are creating an app that improves your shopping experience by connecting social media, favorite clothing, and favorite stores to create a feed of the stores’ social media, deals, and new arrivals. The app will also suggest new stores based on the user’s preferences and personality. Can’t wait to use this one!

A few highlights of their summer include a visit to the IBM Research labs at Almaden, where they visited the model shop (and brought home a 3D printed wrench), a chemistry lab with researcher Jamie Garcia, and the Spintronics lab with researcher Kevin Roche. The girls visited the selfie station and had a Java workshop with IBM Fellow Tanveer Syeda-Mahmood and one of their mentors, Chinyere Nwabugwu. They also loved a field trip where multiple Girls Who Code programs met at Stanford to talk to security experts from around the Bay Area.

Here’s a peek at their first website portfolios during a gallery walk:

Girls working on laptops
Girls working on laptops

My favorite project so far was our Piezo Song lab with Arduino.  My group and I programed the robot to play the opening notes of the Star Wars theme song, and even though it took us a while to find the right notes and implement them into our code, the work was completely worth it.  Our robot played the song perfectly!


The Austin crew is on week five of seven, when they will have their Bluemix workshop and select their final projects. They recently visited the Client Innovation lab and the Watson lab, where they quizzed Watson and one of the Pepper robots. The Austin camp have also had some great speakers, including David Conover, an IBM Champion for cloud and a high school teacher who works on serious gaming. David brought some of his students to the Austin camp to collaborate and work with the girls.

Their first workshop and field trip was to visit the IBM Design Studio and have an IBM Design Thinking workshop facilitated by Jessica Tremblay. Jessica had also facilitated a Summer Immersion program workshop for the girls in Los Angeles. The Design Thinking workshop has been a crowd favorite and they’re hoping to work with the IBM Design team on their final projects.

Austin camp group picture

What I have really enjoyed about the program so far is meeting and personally getting to know each girl in my program. Every person comes from a different high school, lives in a different place, and has their own unique personality and strengths, but it is great to know that we are all here to learn more about computer science and to see if we want to further explore this wonderful field.


New York City

Girls from NYC camp viewing a presentation The final camp, in New York City, just launched a few weeks ago. They’re off to a great start with a presentation by Inhi Cho Suh, the General Manager for IBM Collaboration. She helped the girls access their creativity by sharing book suggestions, and these rules to work by:

  • Rule 1. Different people see the same things differently.
  • Rule 2. All new ideas come from existing ideas or experiences.
  • Rule 3. Increase the combination of diverse people and diverse ideas, to get tons of new ideas.

The NYC camp will soon be heading to meet Watson and Pepper the robot in a few weeks. They will also get to meet the startups and founders at Grand Central Tech, the Girls Who Code partner hosting the girls at their space.


Education that inspires

So much great learning and so many experiences already and we’ve still got a few weeks to go! If you want to keep up with what the girls have been doing, follow @IBMGWC on twitter for updates.

This Girls Who Code program has been life-changing. I’ve done so many things I never thought I could, making me feel more confident as a programmer, but most of all, I’ve made friends that I will never forget.

Check back in with us for a wrap up in August, where we’ll review the final projects created by the girls this summer.  And please consider sponsoring or volunteering for this incredible program next year or starting a Girls Who Code club in your hometown.


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3 comments on"Changing lives at the Girls Who Code summer camps"

  1. Colette Lacroix March 21, 2017

    I would like to involve my client she is running a Canadian girls who code. She is an Executive of the Bank of Canada our Treasury services

    • Hi Colette, I’ve forwarded your contact information the author of that Girls Who Code post, Steph Parkins.

      Appreciate the comment and visit,


    • Hi Colette, I would love to hear about your client’s experiences with the Canadian program. Please put us in touch.

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