What happens when the elements of storytelling and coding collide?
Leigh Lawhon Boone of Ashburn, Va., and winner of last weekend’s D.C. Women in Tech Demo Day has an answer. The 43-year-old front-end developer for Booz Allen Hamilton created Alika’s Treehouse, an interactive storybook for children of the digital age inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Through the adventures of a young Black girl named Alika, young girls learn how to code.
“Being a woman in tech is like being Alice in Wonderland,” Boone said, referring to the challenges of navigating a new world.
The Alika’s Treehouse team won a $10,000 scholarship to tech education outfit General Assembly, as well as $15,000 donated in their honor to tech education nonprofit Black Girls Code. However, the winners decided to donate their $10,000 from General Assembly to Black Girls Code, totaling $25,000 in donations to the nonprofit organization.
Capital One and AngelHack partnered to produce a series of Women in Tech Demo Day hackathons in New York, D.C. and Dallas. The D.C. edition took place at Capital One’s headquarters in Vienna and was focused on finding a solution for Black Girls Code that would help the tech education nonprofit carry out its mission of inspiring girls to code. Black Girls Code launched in D.C. in the summer of 2015 and since then, has held workshops and camps at schools like Noyes Elementary School in Brookland and Capital City Public Charter School in Manor Park. (The other Women in Tech Demo Days are focused on other nonprofit groups like Girls Who Code and Girls, Inc.)
“We know where tech is now,” said AngelHack Chief Marketing Officer Brian Collins. “We want to get tech into communities globally that most people don’t associate it with.”
Thirteen groups participated in the D.C. Women in Tech Demo Day and were given two weeks to create a tech solution that embodied the theme of “Representation Matters.” The participants were then partnered with mentors who provided feedback to prepare each group for the final demo pitch presented to the judges.
During the judges’ deliberation, Black Girls Code founder Kimberly Bryant, who hails from the Bay Area and came to town for the event, engaged in a discussion with attendees and participants moderated by Carlye Greene, Senior Manager of National Partnerships for Capital One. Bryant spoke of her passions of equality and empowerment for women in technology and the plan of action women have to take to shatter the glass ceiling in the tech industry.
“Girls come into our program as young as six or seven with no coding experience, but very creative and active minds,” she said. “I see Alika’s Treehouse as a potential way to engage even younger girls because it’s highly graphical and will take them through the journey of their imagination.”
— AngelHack (@AngelHack) August 27, 2016
The second place finalists, Line Upon Line, also created a similar gaming solution to teach and inspire girls of color to code. Both teams were encouraged by the judges to work together to collaborate on creating a bigger solution for the near future.
The next Women In Tech Demo Day presented by Capital One in partnership with AngelHack will take place in Dallas, Texas, on Oct. 29. Interested female designers, developers and entrepreneurs can register here.
Watch a recap video of the hackathon below.