I sat down with Emma Koslow to discuss her achievements in tech and how she will be the next change maker.
Briana: What was your first experience with technology and/or coding?
Emma: My first experience with technology was when I built my first website on my own. I was six years old at the time and the website was about dogs! I remember being so excited and curious about how I was able to bring my ideas of a website to life. This definitelty sparked my interested in computing. My first experience with computing programming was when I taught myself scratch when I was eight. It was the first language I learned so this also caused me to want to learn more about programming.
Briana: Describe some of your achievements in awards or extracurriculars, especially STEM.
Emma: Some of my achievements and extracurriculars in STEM include being a 2017 NCWIT National Honorable Mention and New Jersey Winner, being a founder/student facilitator of my school's Girls Who Code Club, a member of my school's robotics team, the Director of Communications at coderGirls, and curriculum developer at Code Circle. I am also in the process of developing a not-for-profit to teach programming to those with special needs, and creating an animated short about girls in tech. I am also about to launch a youtube channel and possible blog about being a computer programmer and about what projects I am working on. I am also going to be taking advanced app development courses over the summer where I am one of the only high schoolers to be chosen to participate, I have also learned Java, BASIC, HTML, Scratch, Python, Swift, Ruby, and C, and am taking online courses in artificial intelligence and cyber security.
Briana: What is a challenge you've faced, related to coding/technology experiences? How did you overcome that challenge?
Emma: One of the biggest challenges I have faced in coding experience was learning how to code. When I first become interested in coding, I was really discouraged and upset when I found out that my computer class in school was just about learning how to type. This really put a block in my learning process since I really wanted to learn. At that time and for a while, I was only able to code through lessons that were posted on youtube and various coding blogs. That was how I came across Code Academy. One of blogs I was looking on to learn python, they discussed a website called Code Academy. I created an account and have learned various languages since then. I was able to get through this challenge of learning programming by refusing to give up and by being incredibly stubborn in finding a way to learn.
Another challenge that I faced was being a young, girl programmer. In middle school, when doing projects, the boys would always be in charge of using the computer, since it was assumed that they knew how to use it better than the girls in the group. This often discouraged me because it made me feel awkward and weird since it seemed like I was not supposed to be able to use technology better than boys. I knew that people thought that I was weird for knowing how to code and it made me very sensitive and I began to talk about my computing skills less. It was hard for me to try to take charge and show them what I could do, but eventually, I was able to overcome my shyness and take a leadership position on the projects. I feel like these experiences helped shape me into who I am today. If I did not go through these challenges, then I probably would have been too nervous to be the youngest girl in my AP Computer Science class or too scared to be the only high schooler in my upcoming App development classes.
Briana: What advice would you have for someone who was interested in technology, but was intimidated?
Emma: One of the most important things is to remember that anyone can learn. This was probably the main idea that I thought of when creating the idea for my not-for -profit. Everyone has the potential to learn code and no one should be discouraged by age or gender. Secondly, it is super important to never give up. Giving up is one of the worst things that a person can do. If you give up, then you will never know how far you can go. Another lesson is to never be afraid to be creative and to think big. Do not worry about what others think of you or if you are a little different. Being different is trendy! Yes, coding does look very intimidating, but once you start, you are in the most incredible and welcoming community that you can imagine. When I discovered funds like NCWIT and Girls Who Code, I learned that I was not alone and there are tons of girls who are interested in technology. So really, the best advice out there is to remember that you are not alone.