Avika Patel’s list of accolades is quite impressive, especially for a high school junior. The Woodbridge High student has been recognized by national programs that include Forbes 30 Under 30 Fellow, Mars Generation 24 Under 24, NCWIT Aspirations in Computing National Awardee and others.
Avika has earned the recognition as much for her academic achievement in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, as she has for community service, especially for projects that have helped introduce STEM to other students, particularly girls, an often underrepresented group in STEM careers.
Recently, Avika helped organize a seven-week program to teach middle and high school girls computer science. With assistance from a team of students from Woodbridge High School Girls Who Code, Computer Science Honor Society, and UCI Women in Information and Computer Science, she was able to bring the program to 75 girls, introducing them to block coding, robotics, app development and web design.
“I am a big advocate for bridging the gender gap in technology and hope these workshops can do just that,” Avika said.
One workshop taught Sphero robotics and introduced the girls to key concepts of speed, rotation and direction while they worked together to complete a maze. Another lesson featured game design with Scratch and hand-made controllers through Makey Makey. The girls got to be creative in their games and included various features like sounds, background and characters.
Other workshops introduced the girls to web development through HTML and CSS. Using text-based coding for the first time, the students designed their own websites and personalized them using CSS features.
The girls also learned used a simple block-based coding platform to create interesting mobile applications and test them out on iPads. The final day of the program featured a tour of Google Irvine, where students were able to listen to a panel of Google software engineers and learn more about software careers as females in tech.
“I hope that the girls use the skills they learned to create technology to help their communities, as well as spread the news to other girls and encourage them to learn computer science,” Avika said.