Published on March 31st, 2016 |


6 young Buckhead girls create apps to involve kids in good deeds

Six young women averaging age 13—five students at Sutton Middle School, one at Westminster—were on stage Wednesday evening, demonstrating two software apps they had designed and developed from scratch: “Kids Helping Kids” and “Save the Gnomes: Recycle.”

Left to right: Olivia Elgison, 13, Laura Richard, 12, and Finley Thurman, 13, present their "Save the Gnome" app to encourage kids to learn about recycling.

From left: Olivia Elgison, 13, Laura Richard, 12, and Finley Thurman, 13, present their “Save the Gnome” app to encourage kids to learn about recycling.

Both apps, developed by these Buckhead students—possible future computer technology entrepreneurs—are designed to bring a little kindness into the lives of their generation by helping them get involved in doing good deeds.

The girls are participants in the Dunwoody-based Band of Coders/Girls Academy, a program with the mission of introducing girls to the science of coding and closing the gender gap in the tech industry, where men outnumber women.

The Wednesday (March 30) evening event at the Peachtree Road United Methodist Church was a presentation of the culmination of what they had learned and produced during an accelerated four-week training period and their graduation ceremony in front of family and friends.

Band of Coders/Girls Academy is the social initiative of Band of Coders, a software development firm working to close the gender gap, said Kelly Marble, program manager. “It’s a social enterprise which is for-profit, yet community driven.” More than 335 girls have completed the program, which was founded in 2014.

A recent government report showed 37 percent of computer science bachelor degrees went to women in 1984; but that number had plummeted to 18

Putting finishing touches on their presentation are Sutton Middle School students, left to right, Alexandra Ruiz, Nora Rosenfeld and Jillian Dacey.

Putting finishing touches on their presentation are Sutton Middle School students (from left) Alexandra Ruiz, Nora Rosenfeld and Jillian Dacey.

percent in 2013. Efforts are being made to recruit women and other minorities into computer science and coding programs at younger ages.

Marble said the program mission is threefold: to decrease the gender gap in technology; introduce girls to a collaborative environment; and identify skill-sets for girls to change their community while possibly grooming to become entrepreneurs.”

While there was an obvious display of youthful exuberance and playful spirit among the six Buckhead students, there also was a competitive intensity obvious as they put final touches on their presentations for their families and guests.

On one side of the room was the team that created the “Kids Helping Kids” app—Alex Ruiz, Nora Rosenfeld and Jillian Dacey (all Sutton Middle School students), with their heads buried in their computers making final changes to their presentation, like a youthful Steve Jobs.

Across the room was the team of Finley Thurman and Olivia Elgison, both 13-year-old Sutton School students, and 12-year-old Westminster student Laura Richard. They had developed the “Save the Gnomes: Recycle” app, and were doing a final check on their presentation.

But when the projector failed during the Kids Helping Kids team’s presentation, and the parents of Ruiz, Dacey and Rosenfeld visibly demonstrated disappointment and concern for their daughters, the young women showed mature poise beyond their ages and ad libbed to complete their assignment.

The "Save the Gnome" app creators, left to right, Laura Richard, Finley Thurman and Olivia Elgison putting finishing touches on their presentation.

The “Save the Gnome” app creators (from left) Laura Richard, Finley Thurman and Olivia Elgison put finishing touches on their presentation.

The Kids Helping Kids app presents a “daily deed” page of random acts of kindness. One pops up on the screen showing the deed to be performed that day for a reward. A picture can be taken of the deed being performed in order to ensure the reward points are received.

There is also a scavenger hunt aspect to the app, which allows the user to pick from a list of chores. There will soon be a mini game element added. The girls created the app “to help kids of our generation get involved in doing good deeds,” the girls said.

The Save the Gnomes app starts out with an information page that tells the user how to recycle items, and how that helps save the lives of animals. The daily goals page may tell the user to pick up five items of trash a day. If the task is completed, the user gets the reward of a gnome.

The girls explained that the goal of the app is to “raise awareness of recycling and how trash can kill—especially animals.”

Sitting at a table with the parents of the team that developed the Kids Helping Kids app (Cheryl and Sean Dacey, Jennifer and Joel Rosenfeld and Sheri and Jeff Henry and Michael Ruiz), BuckheadView asked how the families got involved with the Band of Coders/Girls Academy program.

The answer from all of the mothers was: “It was by word of mouth, passed along.” It seems that all of the Sutton Middle School students share some classes together and the mothers all know each other. One mother heard about the program and mentioned it to another and so on.

One thing for sure, they all seemed to be very enthused and happy about what their daughters had learned during the five-to-six-week program—which in this case had been shortened to four weeks because of Spring break and the Easter holiday. And they all displayed pride in their daughters’ accomplishments.

For more information about the program or register for summer camp, click here.


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