Technology

Let ‘Em Code: Code.org Teams With "Frozen" to Appeal to New Audience

By / Dec 4, 2014 (YouTube screenshot)

As it looks to strengthen the talent pipeline for the tech industry, one nonprofit partnered with Anna and Elsa, the stars of Disney’s “Frozen,” to develop a program aimed at getting more young girls coding.

If you’re looking for a way to tap into an audience of young girls, there’s one proven method of success: Team up with Anna and Elsa, the animated sisters who star in Disney’s megahit “Frozen.”

That’s exactly what nonprofit tech-education group Code.org is doing with this year’s Hour of Code campaign, which runs December 8-14 in collaboration with Computer Science Education Week.

The diversity-in-tech issue is one we can put behind us if we get these girls interested in [coding] from the beginning.

Last month, the group announced that it had teamed up with Disney Interactive to develop a tutorial program built on Google’s Blockly that allows young coders-in-training to guide the princess sisters in their quest to make ice fractals and skating patterns—all while learning the basic techniques used in computer programming. Younger students can use simple drag-and-drop commands to build strings of code; older students will be able to toggle the program to see the JavaScript those commands are based on.

Through the partnership, Disney will donate $100,000 toward the development of computer science after-school programs.

The “Frozen” program is available now and will remain a part of Code.org’s online learning platform after the Hour of Code campaign ends. Last year, the group used the popular smartphone app Angry Birds as the theme for its campaign and reached over 10 million girls (15 million students overall) in just five days.

Tech groups and companies have recently acknowledged their poor record in appealing to and welcoming women into the industry. In June, Google shared data revealing the lack of diversity in its workforce and subsequently launched its Made With Code initiative to introduce more girls to computer science.

For the “Frozen” program, Code.org tapped the expertise of a few female industry professionals, as well as some high-profile coding beginners. These spokeswomen included Microsoft engineer Paola Mejia, Polyvore CEO Jess Lee, app developer and model Lyndsey Scott, and model Karlie Kloss, who is just learning to code.

“The diversity-in-tech issue is one we can put behind us if we get these girls interested in [coding] from the beginning,” Hadi Partovi, CEO and cofounder of Code.org, recently told USA Today. “When you’re the only girl entering a classroom, the moment you walk in you feel like you don’t belong. The way we address it is to flood the classroom with young girls who’ve already tried it and know they like it.”

Code.org launched in 2013 with a mission to expand participation in computer science by making it available in more schools. Since its launch, 49 million students have tried its Hour of Code programs, 65,000 classrooms have used the intro course, and more than 30 school districts have reached out to the group for help in developing a computer science curriculum.

Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. More »

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