Best Tech Session at MacWorld: App Camp for Girls

One of the tech talks or sessions I attended at MacWorld/iWorld (and the one I was most impressed with and excited about) was the App Camp for Girls Open House. If you read my blog you know that I have talked about App Camp for Girls several times before. I posted last year about the Indiegogo campaign that Jean MacDonald started as a way to fund App Camp for Girls. Then just a few weeks ago I gave Jean MacDonald a Vincent Award because Jean took the incredibly brave leap of leaving her job at Smile Software to pursue App Camp for Girls full time.

The App Camp for Girls Open House talk at MacWorld was totally different than any other talk given this year at MacWorld. This talk was part tech talk and part hands-on lab for the girls that attended the session. You see, MacWorld attendees were encouraged to bring their daughters to this talk so they could participate in a mini-version of the App Camp for Girls Camp. So for the first half of the 2-hour session Jean and her team talked about how the week-long App Camp for works and for the second half of the session (after the girls had been given some time to brainstorm app ideas) the girls were invited to present their app ideas to a panel of professional women. When I say professional women what I mean is that the three women that made up the panel were professional business women who really fund initiatives like those that the girls were pitching to them as part of their careers...they were the real deal! The girls that got up and pitched their ideas for apps did an amazing job. Not only did that have some really creative ideas but they communicated those ideas in front a panel of distinguished women and a very technical audience and they were fearless. Jean and her team were able to take the very difficult process of formulating an idea for an application and turn it into something that was fun and unintimidating for the girls...well done!

So what is App Camp for Girls? For a detailed explanation I will refer you to the App Camp for Girls website. The quick version is that it is a week-long all-girls camp (specifically girls in the 7th and 8th grade). Right now the camp is only held in Portland, Oregon over the summer but they are expanding to other cities in the future. The whole purpose of the camp is to open up the technical and creative world of app development to a demographic that is severely underrepresented in the tech industry...female developers. During the MacWorld talk Jean MacDonald and her part of her team (Natalie Osten, Kelly Guimont and Christa Morgan) gave both the audience and the girls an overview of:

  • Developing an App using Apple's development software Xcode
  • Brainstorming ideas for apps
  • Wireframing the basic flow of how the app works
  • Designing the icon for the app

So why is App Camp for Girls so important? I've written about it 3 times now, so it's obviously struck a chord with me. The world needs more role models. I am launching spacecraft to other planets today because of 3 very influential role models in my life. My first role model was the professional astronomer that lived next door to my grandma that used to let me come over and climb a 10-foot ladder and take a peek at the universe through his enormous telescope. From that point on I was hooked on space. The next giant push I received was from my high school space science teacher (who was a backup to Christa McAuliffe, the Space Shuttle Challenger educator astronaut) who got me involved in several NASA design competitions. This set in stone my path to become a rocket scientist. Last but certainly not least was the first professional mentor I had in my first job right out of college. Within 6-months of graduating from college I was asked to take over responsibility for designing the maneuvers that would put a several hundred million dollar satellite into orbit (NASA's EO-1 technology demonstration spacecraft). After that 1st big opportunity was given to me my career has just accelerated from there and I would argue that I wouldn't be where I am today with my career had I not been given that guidance by my first professional mentor...a female rocket scientist.

So thank you Jean, Natalie, Kelly, Christa and the rest of the App Camp for Girls team for taking on the role of mentor to these young girls. Know this, you will make a profound impact on their lives and in the long run the tech industry for helping to bring in wealth of talent we have been missing.

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