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Kalispell Girls Who Code group headed to Maker Faire

Kalispell Girls Who Code

A group in the Flathead Valley has been introducing young girls to coding and technology, and soon they'll be heading to the Kalispell Maker Faire with their creations.

The group has been mentoring young girls to teach them that there is a path for them in technology and that it can be fun.

Sixteen girls at Russell Elementary in Kalispell have been meeting after school in their computer lab every Thursday for the past few months.

"The reason that we started the group was to help girls learn how to code, and not just learn how to code but learn the business aspects around coding so they can develop apps," said Marianne Smith, the founder of the group.

The girls will present their app ideas to three judges at the fairgrounds on Feb. 24.

They've worked in teams with local nonprofits to develop community-based apps on issues like suicide prevention, thrift store and food bank donations and a local water bottle station locator.

"This stuff is not just for boys only -- there's a lot for girls to do,” said Smith, who is a former engineer.

“There's the design phase of it where you're looking at what things look like. Anyone who uses apps knows that what you have has to be beautiful," she added.

Volunteers with Girls Who Code say the girls are getting great real-life experience that they otherwise wouldn't get until later in life.

"When you study about coding and technology you open up a ton of different career opportunities," said Beth Sehecher.

Liz Bernau, another volunteer, had a statistic from code.org, which estimates there are 530,000 open jobs in computing, and it is predicted that by the year 2020 that there will be 1.4 million computer science jobs, yet not enough students are enrolled in computer science degrees, especially girls.

"It seems like something only men should be doing, and it may seem like it's something geeky, but it's actually pretty fun," said one of the students.

"It's a very useful skill. You can fix your own computer so you don't have to go to tech support," said another student, whose group developed an app that helps the food bank emphasize what food they need.

According to the girls, the food bank has a surplus of cranberry sauce and is in need of other items.

The students also emphasized that it's been a great way to make friends, and they have fun solving problems together.

After the Maker Faire in February, the team whose app idea wins will go on to participate in the Montana Technovation Challenge in Helena later this year.

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