Need a feel-good moment where tech success meets helping young people become their best selves? Where IBM promotes inclusion? Here you go. In 2016, IBM sponsored Girls Who Code summer immersion programs in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Austin, and New York. The camps were amazing. I’d like to share a few results from the camps and update where we are for 2017.

Two GWC students
Girls Who Code students get started with coding at the IBM SIP in Silicon Valley

Girls Who Code (GWC) is a national nonprofit whose mission is to close that widening gender gap in computer science and to encourage girls to explore degrees and careers in computer science. Through summer immersion camps and after-school coding clubs, Girls Who Code now serves over 40,000 girls in all 50 states. By 2020, they hope to teach one million girls how to code.

As a corporate sponsor, IBM has supported GWC summer immersion programs since 2015. Each summer program introduces 20 students and three instructors to speakers, workshops, field trips and mentors, inspiring them to deepen their interest in STEM and in IBM. Local IBM offices also support Girls Who Code clubs with speakers, facilitators and other ongoing engagement. Through these programs IBM helps build the pipeline of talented women with technical skills. Thanks to the success of these programs in 2016, new plans are afoot for 2017.

2016 Success Leads to DevCon

GWC alumni with Ginni, Bob, and Willie
Girls Who Code alumni present their Watson project to Ginni Rometty, Bob Lord, and Willie Tejada

A group of girls in the Silicon Valley program provides one visible and exciting success story. After their Bluemix and Watson workshop, the girls built their final project on Bluemix, using Watson services. Their project, Blueshop, helped solve a retail problem by connecting busy buyers to the stores they were interested in. The site helps users find all the coupons and sales they get in email and aggregating them, as well as analyzes Twitter responses to the stores and matches users with the best stores for them.

As a result, the girls presented their project – and their path from almost no coding experience to coding with Bluemix and Watson in just 7 weeks – at the Watson Developer Conference in San Francisco. While at the event, the girls also spoke one-on-one to IBM CEO and President, Ginni Rometty, to Chief Digital Officer Bob Lord and to Chief Developer Advocate Willie Tejada. The girls showed off their project, explained what they loved about working with Bluemix and Watson (and their challenges!) and gave their viewpoint on how IBM should continue engaging with them and girls like them.

Girls Who Code at InterConnect

Something they said must have resonated because Ginni then invited the girls, along with Reshma Saujani, the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, to join her on stage at InterConnect 2017. In a tug-the-heartstrings moment at the end of the Chairman’s Address, the girls helped Ginni and Reshma explain to all of IBM’s customers and partners how important programs like Girls Who Code are (in general and to IBM). Then Ginni reaffirmed IBM’s commitments: to support women, to support inclusion, and to actively reach out to younger developers and students to help them become the cognitive developers of the future.

Girls Who Code on stage at InterConnect 2017
Ginni Rometty welcomes Girls Who Code CEO and founder Reshma Saujani and Girls Who Code alumni

During the event – on stage – Ginni offered the young women (Karen, Madison and Michelle) internships at IBM for this summer. What a moment! They started this week in San Francisco, so look for more from them soon.

More Measures of Success

IBM GWC alumna presents at GWC gala
An alumna of the GWC SIP at IBM in New York presents her Watson project to help autistic youth at the Girls Who Code 5-year gala

That group of young women are a great success story for the Girls Who Code relationship and the IBM-sponsored summer immersion programs (SIPs), but they are by no means the only exceptional story or the only way we measure success.

Our alumni impact report indicates that at the beginning of the summer, only 12% of the girls in the IBM GWC programs reported that they were very interested in computer science (CS). By the end of the program, this number rose to 71%.

By the end of the program, 82% of the girls believed that they could be good at CS and 84% want to help other girls get good at CS. Many alumni are already making good on that desire, by starting or running Girls Who Code clubs in their schools or communities and getting their friends involved in coding.

The girls also had a great time at IBM: Students reported a significant increase in their understanding of what IBM does and the diversity of jobs and careers available to them. 76% would want to intern or work at IBM and 93% reported that being in the IBM supported environment contributed to their excitement about computer science. In fact, they are so excited that 94% have or will encourage one or more girls to join a GWC program. Very importantly, 100% say they are likely to pursue a career in technology.

Success Goes Beyond Statistics

GWC students with their project
Girls Who Code students present their final project at the IBM SIP in Los Angeles.

But those are just statistics. The results from the girls themselves are more impressive.

The final projects the girls completed amazed their families and IBMers alike at graduation. Their projects often solved real problems that the girls or their families faced. The girls built a site to help kids with autism communicate (on Bluemix using Watson services) and an I0T wearable to help those with vision or reading disabilities navigate the world around them. A site created by students in the LA program, called Elders Connect, helped seniors learn to communicate to far-away family using technology. The site was featured in IBM’s Age and Ability blog because of the connection to research IBMers are performing in that area.

You can see more examples of the girls’ projects at the Girls Who Code portfolio site.

What’s in store in 2017?

With all that success, where is IBM taking the Girls Who Code relationship in 2017 and beyond?

Thanks to new executive sponsor Catherine Solazzo, IBM is hosting three immersion programs in 2017, in Austin, Silicon Valley, and New York. In each of those cities, IBMers support the girls by offering presentations, workshops, field trips and mentorship.

Austin launched June 12 and the girls are already off to a great start. They’ll be meeting daily through July 28. Silicon Valley Labs (SVL) launched June 19 and will meet through August 4. New York’s SIP will run in partnership with the City University of New York Advanced Science Research Center (CUNY ASRC) from July 10 through August 25.

Catherine Solazzo and Reshma Saujani with Girls Who Code alumni and interns
Catherine Solazzo and Reshma Saujani with Girls Who Code alumni and interns

What’s in the SIP?

In each city, we start with an overview of IBM and the program. The girls love to learn a little IBM history with the Centennial video. Then they experience today’s IBM with The New IBM video and an introduction to Watson. While they didn’t know much about Watson coming in, they’re excited that they get to learn to use it! The girls are also so excited to hear about the opportunities IBM offered the GWC alumni interns.

In the first few days, the girls in Austin and SVL created a classroom contract, did some team-building, and started learning their first programming language – Scratch. In fact, they moved so quickly through their first lessons that some of the girls completed extra projects in Scratch to show off to their families at the Meet & Greet events.

Speakers, Field Trips & Workshops

They’ll continue working their way through the GWC curriculum in the next weeks, enhanced by IBM engagements, including speakers, field trips, workshops and events. For example, in Austin, David Conover (a high school teacher and IBM Champion who works on serious gaming) and his students will speak about their experiences and about serious gaming.

Girls Who Code students with the IBM Design Studio sign
Girls Who Code in Austin get a tour of the IBM Design Studio and a design thinking workshop

IBM Fellows like Rhonda Childress and Tanveer Syeda-Mahmood, IBM Master Inventors like Jessica Murillo and Lisa Seacat Deluca, and more than 100 other IBMers offer their time and enthusiasm as mentors, speakers, workshop leaders, and supporters who keep the logistics, workshops, and field trips running smoothly. In a new session this year, students will meet a panel of IBM speakers talking about their experiences in the Corporate Service Corps and solving world problems with technology.

Across all three cities, the students get field trips and workshops, such as a tour of the IBM Design Studio and an IBM Design Thinking workshop presented by Jessica Tremblay. New York students will head to Astor Place for activities in the Maker Space and an experience with Watson. In Austin, they’ll meet Pepper and experience augmented and virtual reality in the THINK Lab. Girls in SVL spend a day touring labs at the Almaden Research Center.

Their mentor experience begins in week 2 with an in-person mentor event, which will be followed by weekly mentoring engagements via the online MentorPlace tool.

Beyond the SIP

But wait… There’s more! In addition to SIPs, IBM is also supporting the GWC clubs program. The IBM EdTech team, led by Maureen Muthua, is creating a curriculum for GWC clubs – and other K-12 programs. This curriculum will make Watson services, IoT, serious gaming, chatbots, and more accessible and engaging for young developers.

And of course, IBM also has those three amazing young women starting their summer internships in San Francisco, where they will be working on the curriculum among other projects.

Look for more on both of those projects and results from this summer’s SIP students soon.

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