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Montana team of girls make it to semi-finals of international coding competition

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Posted at 6:09 PM, Aug 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-11 11:20:17-04

BILLINGS — Several Montana girls are making a big splash on a national stage. They’re semi-finalists in an international coding competition all for their work on an app.

It's a very impressive feat, especially since the industry is male-dominated.

Maryn Hobby and Evangeline McCormick like to hang out with friends, play with their pets, and do the typical things kids their age love to do. However, unlike most girls their age, they also both love to code.

“My mom told me that there was this coding group, and she asked if I wanted to join and I said, heck yeah,” 10-year-old McCormick said on Wednesday.

Both girls, along with Kalispell residents Peyton Norris and Kiara Van Slayke, are part of a team called the Coding Caribous through the nonprofit organization, Code Girls United. This means they spend a lot of time telling computers what to do.

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“There were more women in computer science jobs in the early 90s than there are now. It was like 36% then, and it’s barely 20% now,” said the founder of Code Girls United, Marianne Smith.

Smith founded Code Girls United in 2016 to give girls from fourth to eighth grade the chance to learn how to code. It’s taken off since then.

“We’re going to have probably close to between 17 and 20 in-person programs around the state of Montana,” Smith said.

The Coding Caribous designed an app called the Communication Station as part of the International Technovation Challenge, competing against 20,000 other girls. Their creation made it to the semi-finals in the beginner’s division.

“The leader called me up and she was like hey, you guys are in the semi finals and I was like whoa, what,” said 11-year-old Hobby.

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The challenge was to create an app that helps the community, and Communication Station does just that. It’s meant to help kids make friends through nonverbal communication.

“Shy kids, and autistic kids and people who can’t talk can find a better way to play games and stuff,” Hobby said.

The app has different choices and cues that kids can use to meet other children.

“You can choose outdoor games, indoor games, and then you press one. And what you’re supposed to do is walk up to someone and be like, hello,” said McCormick.

The whole process is a lot of work.

“Each team has to do a business plan. They have to come up with their marketing research, they do surveys, they do competitive analysis,” said Smith.

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These girls say it’s worth it if you’re doing something you love.

“It feels really good that I’m part of a team that’s making apps to help people,” McCormick said.

The girls will find out on Friday if their app makes it to the finals of the competition. Regardless, they say it’s been time well spent.

“The bonds are probably my favorite part about it,” said Hobby.

Smith said seven new programs will be implemented in various Billings public schools. If you’re interested in registering your daughter for a program, visit Home | Code Girls United.