With a shout out from the White House, the efforts to teach computer coding to more Kanawha County girls expanded Wednesday, with plans for an initiative that started with just female students to further grow and, eventually, expand beyond women and Kanawha’s borders.
Ysabel Bombardiere, the volunteer instructor for a girls coding group that started early this year at the West Virginia University Extension Service office in Kanawha City, said she’s started a new initiative, called Project Code Nodes, that will add — atop the Kanawha City group, where a new session of meetings started last month — three new free coding groups based in downtown Charleston, Institute and Rand.
On Wednesday, the Institute class became the first new one to open. Bombardiere said the downtown Charleston group is expected to start this fall and the Rand group is planned to begin in January.
Bombardiere’s classes will continue to receive support from the New York City-based nonprofit Girls Who Code, and all the new locations are affiliated with the Partnership of African American Churches, whose executive director, James Patterson, said is a group of about 21 churches, all in the Mountain State.
He said the Institute class will be held at Institute Church of the Nazarene, which he pastors, while the downtown Charleston group will be at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center and the Rand group will be at Levi First Missionary Baptist Church.
NASA’s West Virginia Space Grant Consortium — a group of a dozen West Virginia academic institutions and eight corporate and scientific partners that includes science, technology, education and mathematics education in its mission — provided three college students who are NASA fellows to aid with the coding classes.
Bombardiere said it is hoped that 4-H workers and the fellows will be able to learn enough to teach more classes on their own, to eventually expand the program and achieve her goals of teaching boys and girls coding and robotics. Right now, she’s the only instructor for the four locations.
She said the four locations should be able to provide the free computer coding classes to 70 girls overall.