A young mum is doing her bit to encourage more women to study computer science by offering a free introductory class to computer programming for girls to mark International Women's Day.
Madhumalti Sharma, 38, launched computing4kids, workshops in English for young people aged 7 to 16 years in Luxembourg, at the beginning of 2014.
The software professional, who worked for IBM before moving to Luxembourg in 2009, decided to offer something else when she noticed how few girls were signing up.
“I had three or four girls out of 21 children,” she told wort.lu, adding: “That's when I realised it's worldwide, this issue (of a lack of girls opting to learn computer programming) and I should do something.”
The Indian national from Calcutta was involved with similar computer science programmes organised by IBM in India, where computer programming is popular but women remain under-represented in the field.
“The idea was to show the girls it was an interesting career option,” she said.
Learning while having fun
Madhumalti said that programming is not as complicated as some might think. Her informal, workshops held at her home in Kirchberg, serve as an introduction by touching on concepts related to computer science.
Combining computer-based and paper activities, the mother-of-two helps children to understand how computers think and gets them motivated by coding using games like Angry Birds or Plants vs Zombies, for example.
“It's not like a typical class where they have to go and do something or complete homework for. It's about learning while having fun,” she said.
The young people are then able to pursue their own interests, whether they be in learning a specific code, designing phone applications or understanding how games work.
The result has been overwhelmingly successful, prompting Madhumalti to put on additional workshops.
“It's very interesting to see the children getting excited. It's heartening to see at the end of the class when the parents are waiting and the children don't want to go!” she said.
Coding for the masses
In addition to encouraging girls to take an interest in computer science, Madhumalti wants coding to be taught more widely to youngsters in Luxembourg.
Currently, a pilot computer club is offered to students at the International School Luxembourg but in other international schools and in state schools, she suggests there is scope for introducing this subject.
“If you see what we need computers for today, it is easy to see that over the years, the number of applications for it will only increase. In fact America says there are going to need 1 million programmers in the next few years and there's going to be a big deficiency of people who know how to code,” she said.
In addition to working with children, she is open to offering courses to adults, provided there is demand and she has the time.
Introduction to Computer Science: An Hour of Code for girls, will be run on March 1, from 10am to 11am at Kirchberg.
The session is FREE but spaces are limited and participants must register in advance. Book your place by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, please visit www.workshop4me.blogspot.com