2017 Techsters: Coding Alexa
May 23, 2017
“Alexa: how did 2017 Techsters go?”
The 2017 RVATechsters event was a hit! Techsters is a half-day coding camp for middle school girls in central Virginia with a mission to inspire a future generation to discover technology, get excited about STEM, and build code for real-world applications.
This year’s theme was centered around “Alexa’s Kitchen”, where nearly 275 middle school girls learned recipes to code Amazon Echo products.
A cooking demonstration: how to make chocolate pudding kicked off the event where an adult “chef” had all of the ingredients and tools to make chocolate pudding and the Techsters had to try and guide the leader to make a perfect pudding. Needless to say, milk, chocolate, and Oreos were all over the chef and table. What did they learn? You must be extremely precise and specific when building a successful recipe. The same goes for building successful codes.
Over 100 technical volunteers ensured we had a less than 3:1 mentor to student ratio. The mentors worked with their trio on building question and answer codes for Alexa, ranging from “Alexa, what’s your favorite ice cream?” to “Alexa, look for recipes containing blank.” After working through the pre-established challenges, they were able to start experimenting with building their own codes. One team created code related to animal noises “Alexa, what does the cow say?”.
Students were inspired by the activities, saying:
“I think this is the start of my career! I got a great introduction to Information Technology. It was fun to experience I.T. life!”
“This is an excellent program with experienced, patient mentors, from which I learned quite a lot… Using Alexa was an amazing idea [and its cool that] you can combine programming on a computer with a new technology”
In addition to the Alexa exercises, the girls were able to visit a number of STEM related booths. Two area high school robotics teams showcased their competition robots: one launched dodgeballs while the other launched Frisbees – the mixture of amazement and amusement on the attendees’ faces were highly rewarding to all!
With the generous donations from our corporate sponsors, each attendee left with a swag bag, which included an Echo Tap and a recipe book to continue their learnings at home.
Parents were thrilled with the opportunity, saying:
“Thank you so much for the event last week. My daughter had a wonderful time and I can’t remember the last time she came home excited about coding something. Her father is a Computer Science Professor at U of R but she never wants to learn anything from her dad. What a terrific event!”
“My daughter and her friend had an awesome time at [Techsters]. Thank you and everyone involved. My daughter’s EXACT words were “We had the best time ever and we felt like VIPs.” Again, thank you!”
RVATECH, Richmond’s Technology Council, is grateful to the huge support of Capital One for their tireless efforts in creating the exercises and hosting such a successful event! In addition, we greatly appreciate the support of Altria Client Services, Amazon, and numerous community volunteers.
We look forward to hosting this community-wide event in 2018!
Remember to click here and check out all the photos from the event!<Back