On Saturday, I was one of a number of coaches for Rails Girls at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. This wonderful event is designed to help teach women the basics of Ruby and Ruby on Rails, and to ultimately help them build an application. It was an excellent experience: I was so impressed with how quickly all the attendees picked up the basics of the command line, programming, and web development.
For those of you who would like to see exactly what we covered, we first went through much of Ruby in 100 Minutes and then jumped right in with building a Ruby on Rails address book application that lets users input their name, twitter info, picture, bio, and address, and then plots the address on a map. Students who wanted a further challenge then followed instructions to put their app online using Heroku. For example, Elizabeth Hopwood, one of the attendees I worked with, put her excellent app online and populated it with “Downtown Abbey” characters.
I’m so grateful to Jeri Wieringa and Celeste Sharpe for organizing this event. I’m thrilled to have been part of something that helps teach women how to code and that can actually help change the programming culture: on numerous occasions at conferences, I’ve had people insist that I couldn’t have created my two digital projects and that, as a woman, I must be taking credit for the programming work of a man. Programs like Rails Girls can help change those horrible perceptions, by helping women feel welcomed into coding and into a supportive programming community and by publicly claiming programming spaces for women.
I look forward to hearing of future Rails Girls events, and I hope to volunteer as a coach for other similar nearby programs in the future.