Catholic Sentinel/Ed Langlois
Chloe Elliott, of the St. Mary’s Academy tech club, sports Google Glasses.
Catholic Sentinel/Ed Langlois

Chloe Elliott, of the St. Mary’s Academy tech club, sports Google Glasses.

Students from St. Mary’s Academy are getting a chance to learn the building blocks of the technology empire.

Sessions held after hours at the all-girls school teach participants how to write computer code.

It’s a carnival atmosphere as the event begins, with music playing and a massive screen lighting up in the school’s rooftop commons.

“I don’t want you just to use technology. I want you to make it,” technology teacher Michael Bedney tells students.  

Hour of Code is a large national movement with stars like Ashton Kutcher, Mark Zuckerburg and President Obama telling kids it’s not so hard to create computer programs. The movement offers online tutorials.

Members of the St. Mary’s Academy tech club run the gathering and encourage peers to embrace code and have fun with it. The club has about 20 members at the 600-girl school.

Also on hand are parents who work in the tech industry. Achod Goganian, an Intel software engineer, has a daughter at St. Mary’s. He says the tech industry is still mostly men, and would benefit from more women. He says tech can be “work that feels like play.”

Chloe Elliott, a senior member of the tech club, on this day is sporting Google Glasses, a tiny wearable computer St. Mary’s received from a researcher seeking ways to use them in education. Elliott and her pals figure out the device in short order and like the convenience, power and simplicity.

Elliott has already designed her club’s website, having attended a coding academy over the summer. “I like to figure out how things work,” she says.

Mary Catherine Morgan, a St. Mary’s sophomore, won a national technology award as a child. She’s been caught on the subject ever since. Designer of a drinking system for dehydrated senior citizens, she hopes to be a biomedical engineer.

Peyton Tierney, a sophomore club member, hopes to encourage more peers to get involved in computer science. She has taken classes in ethical use of technology and thinks a Catholic school is a good place for that kind of thinking.  

Bedney says girls approach technology in a way that sustains a concern for the common good. They want not just to play games, but to see how technology can help people.
Many youths don’t like to make mistakes, Bedney says. But a key to advances in technology is being willing to try daring moves. One of his jobs is to help students embrace failure.

Kelli Clark, principal at St. Mary’s, sat with students and did some learning herself. Clark says coding is a critical skill both now and for the future. She realizes some young women still think tech is the domain of men.

“A big part of our job is to help them see themselves differently,” Clark says.