Charting a Path to Game Design for Girls After School

Code Liberation High School at NYU-Poly

This Fall, the Center for K12 STEM Education partnered with the Code Liberation Foundation and the Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women to pilot a new 30-hour program focused on introducing young women to coding and creating games. This program, called Code Liberation High School, recently graduated its first class. The program took place after school at NYU-Poly’s Media and Games Network (MAGNET) space in downtown Brooklyn.

Nina 2Nina Freeman is a Co-Founder of the Code Liberation Foundation, a New York City-based team of women offering free opportunities for women to learn games programming and development, with the purpose of facilitating the creation of game titles by women. Nina is currently completing a Master of Science at NYU-Poly in Integrated Digital Media. This semester at Code Liberation High School, Nina covered the basics of C++ and object-oriented programming using openFrameworks. Each girl was supplied with a laptop that has the necessary software to code and follow along with the activities in-class. She usually lectured on core topics and afterwards, delivered workshop-style lessons in which they walked through building a small game program using those concepts.

Code Liberation HS 2About a dozen 8th and 9th grade girls from UAI participated in these inaugural free workshops in C++ and openFrameworks games programming. Nina describes the students’ experience with her workshops so far as very positive. She says, “The highlight for the students is probably the ease with which openFrameworks allows for them to draw shapes to the screen. In regular C++, drawing shapes to the screen would be potentially too complex for an introductory class, but openFrameworks has that functionality built-in. So, we have already built small programs that draw and color circles which a player can move around on the screen. It’s good for the students to be able to see their work in action, especially when they are just learning the core concepts of object-oriented programming and game design.”

Nina guides students in creative codingNina reflects on the importance of accessibility and mentorship in coding for girls. She recalls, “I remember being the same age as my students and wishing that there was a real computer science course at my school. I didn’t end up having the opportunity to learn programming until after college.” She continues, “I’m happy to be giving these girls the opportunity that I wanted when I was younger. Programming literacy is becoming more and more important, in both games and life in general. I’m happy to be teaching them skills that give them the ability to express themselves through game design, but also skills that have a greater impact on their lives in a world where computer literacy is so powerful.”

With the Center’s thanks to The Teagle Foundation for its longtime support of our in-depth, multi-program partnership with UAI.  We look forward to offering Code Liberation High School again for more young women attending UAI in the Spring semester.