SmartGurlz Coding Workshop – Black Girls Code NYC

Kadeesha Cox – SpringBoard Incubators Inc.,

Saturday, April 8th, 2017 – 10am – 4pm


As I walked through the Google building, I wasn’t sure what to expect in regard to the activities taking place for the day. Yet as we reached the Black Girls Code Office, I was immediately greeted with an eye-catching, yet comfortable atmosphere. After signing in, we had an introductory meeting with the CEO and co-founder of SmartGurlz, Mrs. Sharmi Albrechtsen and we were able to get some information on the background of SmartGurlz and the Siggy robot. She then prepared us for the day by equipping each volunteer with an iPad and a Siggy doll of color and split the girls into about 6 groups as group leaders. When the female participants, ages 7-12 arrived, they had some trouble mingling at first, as most young girls do, but after being placed in their groups according to age and getting a siggy in front of them, they quickly changed what was once a quiet, separated room.

Mrs. Sharmi quickly briefed the girls of the day’s events in order to get the participants ready and excited. The girls were surprisingly very attentive and understanding of what they were being told. The volunteers from Morrison Mentors began introducing the girls of each group to block coding using the ‘Sugar Coded’ App that was created for the Siggy robot. “The ‘Sugar Coded’ app uses Google Blockly in a fun and intuitive way to teach girls that the blocks link together to make writing code easier.” (Mrs. Sharmi Albrechtsen) On the app, there is a ‘Missions Intro Module’ that consists of maps & mathematics. Missions start with a small task that the girls have to achieve, and as they go on, the tasks become increasingly difficult. Yet it took no time for the girls to get familiar with both the doll and the app and soon they were driving the Siggy doll all around the BGC office. After getting comfortable with their group mates and the doll, the girls were asked to put the doll aside and work on some block coding exercises to get used to putting things together digitally and seeing them actually happen. When they returned to the robot, each group got a chance to create their own block code sequence, save it, and watch the robot perform it. The girls were then asked to show off what they’ve learned as a team for the “Show, Tell and Share” module. Mrs. Sharmi had the bright idea of referring to it as a ‘Siggy Talent Show’ rather than simply calling it a presentation. This, I believe, truly caught the interest of the girls. They got very excited and immediately started brainstorming. Each girl was allowed to exercise their creativity, put different ideas together and present what they programmed as a whole.

As the day progressed, I watched the girls intermingle, put on their thinking caps when something went wrong, and most importantly have fun. I enjoyed watching girls not only help themselves but help each other without running to an adult for help. Girls exercised such excellent teamwork skills and even made new friends. In my opinion, the event was a huge success as far as encouraging the female interest in coding and in the overall field of STEM.


For more information on SmartGurlz, Black Girls Code, or the event, visit the links below.

Interested in viewing photos from the event? Click the link:

Link to Dr. Oliver’s tweet:

Link to BGC NYC: