At ISL, we believe fostering DC’s tech community is incredibly important.  We host tech meetups for Women Who Code, Code for DC, Django District, and Hear Me Code, and you can find our developers sharing their knowledge and expertise at events all over the district. Sometimes we like to go off of the beaten path and mentor aspiring technologists from outside the city. In this case, way outside the city.

We recently hosted 3 girls from TechGirls, an exchange program organized by Legacy International and the State Department. The program is designed to empower young girls from the Middle East and North Africa to pursue science and technology careers. The girls get to shadow technical professionals, participate in skill-development workshops, technical training, and community service projects.

So, what happened when the girls spent the day with us at ISL? We had a jam-packed day planned, but their affection for our SELFIE mirror made it difficult to stay on schedule. We can’t blame them though!

The day started with a tour of our office. We showed off the hidden door, roaming dogs, stilted nap pod, and photography studios.

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Up next: Hardware. We chatted about the cross-collaboration between our software and hardware teams, but the girls were more excited for the hands-on activities – laser cutting and 3D printing! Each girl designed their own ISL keychain, which we then laser cut in-house so they could watch their creation come to life.

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Lunch was pizza and a conversation with our VP of Engineering. The girls grilled him about how to get an internship or job at ISL! It was safe to say they were enjoying their experience thus far.

The afternoon session consisted of more information about our software development process, the tools we use, and how they can get started coding. After each girl created a GitHub account, it was time to start a project together.

The project was modeled around our ISL process. We went through a brainstorming and concepting session using sticky notes. We asked the same questions we would use to come up with new experiments: What type of project did they want to build? What problem did they want to solve?

The girls decided to build an informational astronomy website. From there, we went through exercises to discover the website’s purpose, target audience, required tech stack, and required content. One of our interactive designers lead them through a wireframing exercise for their website.

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Finally, it was time to code! To save time, we branched off of one of our existing websites. The girls each took turns writing code. The final product (below) was a beautiful, informational website about astronomy. The girls are planning on continuing to work on it together, even after they get home to their respective countries.

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Just like every project at ISL, the day ended with a retrospective exercise so that everyone could learn from the experience.

We loved spending the day with TechGirls and are looking forward to keeping in touch with the girls! We are counting down to when we get to host more girls next year.

Want to team up on an outreach event? Tweet me @marissahalpert or email me at marissa@isl.co

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