Here you can find the student projects from the 2018-19 year.
A word from Brooke Wolford, co-founder of UofM DCMB Girls Who Code:
The inaugural Department of Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics Girls Who Code Club kicked off on Tuesday, September 19th! We have a full class of 15 local high schoolers ready to learn about computational data analysis using Python. They come from ten different high schools and have a wide array of programming experience.
For our first meeting, Executive Committee member Stephanie Thiede presented a lesson on Data Science. We asked GWC participants and Facilitators to let us know what they thought of when they heard the words coding/programming, and here is what they shared....
I’m impressed already! This club started as a dream of mine from my days of research at the National Institutes of Health over two years ago. After teaming up with fellow Bioinformatics graduate student and NSF Graduate Research Fellow, Zena Lapp, we began to make DCMB GWC a reality in late 2016. We have amazing colleagues and friends who joined the Executive Committee and dedicated their talents and time to make our shared goals come to fruition. We are thankful for an incredibly generous department that supports our outreach efforts through financial contributions, computer lab space, and mentorship. Most importantly, we are excited to spend the next school year coding with our Girls Who Code Club participants! Please check back here for updates on what we are learning together!
Things have been really exciting the last two weeks here at DCMB GWC! Our participants dove head first into Python programming, learning about basic syntax, data types, variables, lists, and Jupyter Notebook – wow! Before any of us know it the girls will be data science gurus!
Something that sets DCMB GWC apart from the rest of the GWC community is our club’s unique focus on data science and analytical programming. This approach will provide club participants with the tools they need to explore questions about the world around them using observational data and statistical methods. To achieve this goal, our Executive Committee has tailor made a Python-based curriculum including weekly Challenge Questions, allowing the girls to exercise their newly learned skills to solve real-world problems. Our weekly Challenge Questions are publicly available here.
We have also begin each weekly session by welcoming a guest speaker to speak about their experience with coding and how they apply it in their daily lives. First, we heard from UM alumna, Anita Pandit, who spoke about her work as a Research Computer Specialist in the Center for Statistical Genetics at the University of Michigan. Last week, GWC alumna Isra Elshafei told the girls about her experience navigating her undergraduate career at U of M, and following her passions to pursue a major in computer science. So far our participants have loved hearing about how women utilize their programming skills on a daily basis, and we look forward to hearing from even more inspiring individuals in the coming weeks!
Girls Who Code (GWC) is where I go after a long day at school to learn about coding. I first walked into Girls Who Code with just one goal: to learn to code. It truly was a leap of faith. I never expected I would walk out inspired by leaders and peers. I look forward to my weekly meetings, where we listen to presentations about computer science majors, careers, and education tips. Afterwards we work our way through Python programming. Throughout each weekly session, socializing is encouraged. It is inspiring to see so many girls from diverse backgrounds come together for computer science.
— Sarah Brabec, GWC Student
On November 11, 2017 some of our Girls Who Code Facilitators volunteered at FEMMES Fall
Capstone. FEMMES stands for Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering, and the Sciences
and this amazing student organization hosts successful capstones each semester. They bring
over 200 4th-6th grade girls from southeast Michigan onto the University of Michigan’s Campus
for a day of STEM education and fun. To find out more about FEMMES, visit their website.
I have been volunteering with FEMMES since I started graduate school, and I had the privilege of being an activity leader for two of the last three capstones. This year, Girls Who Code created an interactive lesson to teach girls to code using the easy to use, visual programming language, Scratch. Our content, including Scratch code and instructional materials, is available on our GitHub. We hope it will be of benefit to other educators looking to encourage a love of coding in their classrooms! While aimed for 4th-6th grade girls, you can do a lot with Scratch, so it is easily customizable for a wider audience. Special thanks to my colleagues Stephanie Thiede, Rucheng Diao, Emily Roberts, and Sarah Hanks for their dedication to this extension of Girls Who Code.
We started the new year building skills needed for the students’ Capstone Project. Today we worked on importing data using Pandas. Did you know pandas.read_csv() can import files with delimiters other than commas?! We start working on our projects February 13th…can’t wait! Project topics range from studying what gender tweets most about Trump to cardiovascular health in the United States. Many thanks to our wonderful volunteer Facilitators who help out our students every week.
On Saturday, February 17, GWC hosted an activity for the Females Excelling More In Mathematics, Engineering, and Science (FEMMES) Winter 2018 Capstone. Similar to the Fall Capstone, we taught 4th-6th grade girls about programming concepts through Scratch . We also added a new component using our Ozobots! These tiny robots allow us to teach coding concepts through drawing and a Scratch-like programming language called Ozoblockly. We are so excited to integrate robotics into our repertoire!
GWC is committed to our Tuesday night club for high schoolers and various science outreach efforts in the greater Ann Arbor community. Our educational materials are available on our GitHub . Special thanks to our amazing facilitators who take time from their doctoral work to teach girls to code! Find us at the Young Scientists’ Expo at Forsythe Middle School on Sunday, March 11, 2018.
The past seven months of coding experience in Girls Who Code has been amazing. I
experienced so many things and learnt so much more. When I first joined Girls Who Code I didn't
have much of a coding experience and I didn't really know what to expect, but after a week or so
I started to truly enjoy every moment of the class. Learning how to code was just like learning
another language but having all these amazing teachers with us made it even easier. They were
always there to help us at anytime and with anything, even if it wasn't related to the class. What
made the experience even more amazing was the fact that I've met so many smart girls who are
almost the same age as I am and who share the same interest- coding! I've made a lot of
friends, played so many 'get to know each other' games, it's been crazy! Not to mention the
yummy pizzas we had every Tuesday. I've also learnt a lot about different careers in STEM and
different research fields where I can use coding. I have also gotten to meet so many amazing
and successful people who use coding every day of their lives. Girls who code has definitely
opened up a lot more career options for me especially in the fields of STEM. Girls who code
also offers all of us many interesting opportunities like competitions and internships for the
We are working on a group project right now and I can't wait to present it. This whole experience had been amazing and I can't wait for another year of coding with Girls who code.
On Sunday, March 11, 2018, we partnered with the Association for Women in Science at the
University of Michigan (recently re-established at UM by my colleague Haley Amemiya) to lead
an activity at Forsythe Middle School’s Young Scientists’ Expo . For many years students at local
Forysthe Middle School have participated in an amazing science fair. This year’s organizers
combined the students’ science projects with demonstrations by guest scientists. Girls Who
Code was excited to plan and lead a demonstration using our Ozobots to teach about
probability and programming.
Using Ozoblockly (a graphical user interface based programming language) we were able to program our Ozobots to run around a track and make directional choices with different probabilities. Throughout the day, students and their families helped us record the experimental probabilities to determine the theoretical probabilities created by our code. We were able to teach concepts such as for loops, random number generators, and probability. A special thank you to our volunteers Zena Lapp, Emily Morris, and Maureen Logue, and all the Expo participants who stopped by our GWC demonstration!
This week Department of Statistics PhD student, Yujia Pan, was our guest speaker. She
graciously volunteered her time to teach our students about finding trends in data. She shared a
few anecdotes about the need to visualize and explore data to better understand trends in our
For example, at first glance it looks like average SAT scores are negatively associated with
average teacher salary. However, if you partition the samples into three bins of percentage of
students actually take the SAT, you see that SAT scores and teacher salary are positively
correlated within each bin. This was a helpful lesson for our girls because visualizing trends in
their data is a goal of our Capstone Project!
If you or someone you know has interesting programming, data science, or technology experience they would like to share with our club, please email us at gwc.bioinfo- firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily Roberts is a Biostatistics PhD student, an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, and a
personal friend of mine. In addition to volunteering with various GWC Outreach efforts, she was
our guest speaker at Girls Who Code on March 20, 2018. Emily shared her academic journey,
what she loves about biostatistics, and a sampler of the many research projects she is working
on as part of a research group studying cancer in the Department of Biostatistics.
Emily has a unique educational background as a Math and Psychology double major at Coe
College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Our students were really interested in the classes she took in
her undergraduate career, which is exactly why we have carefully chosen guest speakers that
can provide information on a variety of college majors. We hope our senior students have
learned some valuable information as they prepare to embark on their college journeys later this
year. Thanks Emily!
On April 24, Dr. Cristen Willer, my PhD advisor, was our guest speaker at Girls Who Code! Dr.
Willer is an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, Human Genetics, and Computational
Medicine and Bioinformatics at the University of Michigan, and her lab studies the genetics of
cardiovascular diseases using statistical and computational methods. She presented our lab’s
findings about a noncoding region near GATA4, a gene for a transcription factor important for
cardiac development, which is found in patients with a congenital heart defect called bicuspid
aortic valve. Dr. Willer emphasized the importance of visualizing data so other people
understand what your research findings mean! We agree this is a very important part of data
science. It’s the reason we included Python’s matplotlib in our curriculum, and the girls are
making plots to visualize their data for their Capstone Projects. Dr. Willer also reminded our
students that you can be a scientist and have a family too. From my own experience, I know this
is an important thing to reassure young women of. I’m thankful to have such an amazing advisor
who is also a great role model for young women in science.
On Tuesday, May 15, 2018 we had our last Girls Who Code meeting of the 2017-2018 year. The students finished up their
presentations which highlight their Capstone Projects. We can’t wait to enjoy their presentations during next week’s
Graduation Ceremony. The last class of our inaugural year was bittersweet, but we can’t wait to see what wonderful
things our Girls Who Code do with their newfound Python programming skills and data science knowledge. Thanks to the
many people, especially our students and their families, who made it possible!
Our second Girls Who Code club started last week! We are so excited to have 17 students ready to learn about Python programming and data science. We asked our club members to tell us what makes up a computer. We got some great answers including circuits, binary, and motherboard. Facilitator and Executive Committee member Marlena Duda then explained the components of the computer she built this summer using a graphics processing unit (GPU). Now for the language and software part of computers—we start learning Python next week!
Beginners and experts alike can agree that coding can be hard. However, the fruitful success followed from hard work is not only satisfying, but also addicting. I learned this through Girls Who Code at the Dept. of Computational Bioinformatics. When I joined the program, I thought I would only be learning python. In reality, I ended up learning so much more.
Google is your best friend. The sooner you learn that the better. Sometimes you won’t always have the answers, nor will the professionals around you. In those sticky situations, google is there for you.
You will also learn about Patience. Its something I still struggle with when it comes to coding. As best described by Napoleon Hill, “Patience, persistence, and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” Whether he was a programmer or not, his wisdom speaks out to the programming community. Patience is required to be able code. When writing a program, you will rarely get it right the first time, or the second time, and you’re darn lucky if you get it right the third. However the time you finally get it, the satisfaction is unbelievable.
Through Girls Who Code, I was able to develop these skills to continue my passion in coding. It is a valuable experience that I believe every girl should have. The empowering atmosphere that exists in such an environment is truly special.