In 2018 I was invited to give a 3-day robotics workshop for girls by Goethe Institut Minsk. I learned that IT businesses are flourishing in Belarus, it even is dubbed Silicon Valley of Eastern Europe.
But like in most countries (and maybe even more so) IT is dominated by men. On the other hand foreign languages departments in universities are almost exclusively female.
The workshop was to be held in German an the goal basically was to encourage teenage girls with good German skills that learning to program is very similar to learning a language.
I had never worked with teenagers before and to be honest was a bit nervous. In the end I was amazed how eager, smart and kind these girls were. I worried about the language barrier too since I couldn’t anticipate their language proficiency. I don’t speak any Russian, I barely managed to somewhat decipher Cyrillic Alphabet upon arrival in Minsk, so we had to stick to German and a tiny bit of English.
Besides my robotic workshop there was also one about digital music making and app programming. Girls from all over Belarus participated in the workshops. They had to apply and were accompanied by their teachers. The workshops took place at IT Princess Academy, a coding school for girls!
In the end this was a great experience for everyone. The girls had fun, they learned a lot and built so much confidence. And, well, me too. 🤓
Also I would never have travelled to Belarus if it weren’t for this invitation. Plus Tanja and Marina from the Goethe Institut were the loveliest people. 💜
On day 1 we started with some fun drawing robots made of paper cups. Nothing to program yet, but a bit of circuitry, motors and craftwork. The girls got really creative and I could estimate how to proceed best with the workshop. On day 2 we started building pantographic robots using Kapa and Arduino. After a short introduction to Arduino, the girls started to build. I brought several sensors with which the girls could experiment and modulate the outcome of their drawing bots. Day 3 was for some more experimenting and preparing the presentation. And of course the presentation itself.