In mid-July, 12-14 year-old female campers attending the beta App Camp For Girls in Portland, Oregon, were hard at work building iPhone apps, and taking occasional hula-hooping breaks.
At the same time, App Camp For Girls concluded a successful Indiegogo campaign, raising over $100,000 to further opportunities for girls to gain hands-on programming experience. (GeekMom featured App Camp For Girls in a June “Fund This!” roundup.)
Next month, from August 19-23, App Camp For Girls will kick off its first official AC4G session, after using beta and alpha sessions to refine the curriculum.
Camp Director Jean MacDonald envisions the camp as a “weeklong session [covering] the process from brainstorming an app idea to marketing the finished app.”
The goal, MacDonald says on AC4G’s campaign website, is simple:
App Camp For Girls wants to address the gender imbalance among software developers by giving girls the chance to learn how to build apps, to be inspired by women instructors, and to get exposure to software development as a career.
I must say, I’m jealous of Portland for many things, but this takes the cake. I’ve already asked AC4G founder Jean MacDonald what her plans for world domination are, in hopes that she’s bringing the program to the East Coast soon.
“We plan to give our full attention to the expansion plans after August. We are focused on making this second week of camp great, and having a “reproducible” program that we can use as a basis to grow,” she said. “Wherever App Camp For Girls goes next, there will need to be at least one woman iOS developer who has the time and enthusiasm to devote. That is a very scarce resource, and we’ll be working hard after August to identify potential volunteers.”
How much interest has App Camp For Girls received from potential campers?
MacDonald says, “The interest has been much higher than I expected. Over 30 girls were interested in our first “beta” session in June. They all found us via word-of-mouth and Facebook. We originally thought we’d have to do a bit of camper recruitment, contacting teachers and schools, but that wasn’t necessary. We are starting off small, so we can focus on the curriculum and make sure we have a program that works as we envisioned. So our first two sessions, we’ve only had 12 campers. As we expand, we’ll have to do more outreach, I’m sure, especially to reach the girls who don’t already self-identify as nerds or geeks.”
Highlights of the beta App Camp For Girls session, according to MacDonald:
For the girls, the highlight has been to see an app that they designed and developed working on an iPod touch. Our goal has always been to get to that point, so the girls could experience the sense of accomplishment and be inspired to learn more and go further after camp was over. They literally cheered when we told them at the final camp pitch session that they would all get a copy of The Big Nerd Ranch Guide to Objective-C! They really want to learn to code. We gave them an introduction during camp week, and now they know what they need to learn.
Another highlight for the campers was having the chance to work and have fun with a group of like-minded girls. Several mentioned that they’ve done technology programs before, but they were one of few or even the only girls in the group. At App Camp For Girls, they could let down the hair, so to speak, and not be intimidated by having lots of boys around. According to their surveys, they were surprised at how much fun they had during the week.
One of the coolest App Camp For Girls Indiegogo donation perks was a $25 level mix tape by The Doubleclicks. The fantastic duo has not stopped there in support of AC4G. They’ve taken the slogan “There Are No Fake Geeks, Only Real Jerks” from their “Nothing to Prove” video and turn it into a t-shirt, with profits benefiting App Camp For Girls.
In addition, Jean MacDonald has also posted a request on Twitter for 15″ and 17″ MacBook Pros for App Camp For Girls.
Dear Jean and the App Camp For Girls Team, please hurry up and bring App Camp For Girls to the East Coast!