By Katy Spence
Stephanie Ralls stood in a classroom, the ingredients for a peanut butter sandwich spread on the desk before her. She looked at the eight high school girls sitting in front of her.
“Tell me how to make a sandwich,” she said.
“Open the bread!” the girls instructed.
Ralls picked up the loaf of bread and ripped the bag right down the middle. The girls burst into laughter and changed their instruction– open the twist-tie at the end and use one hand to take a slice of bread out of the bag. It was the girls’ first lesson in how talking to a computer is different than talking to a human — part of the Mobile Application class during ChickTech Missoula’s Dec. 1 High School Program.
ChickTech is a national organization with more than 25 chapters around the country. The Missoula chapter was established last year to help get more Montana high school girls interested in pursuing tech careers.
Ralls is a Missoula-based consultant with ATG, a Cognizant company, and was one of more than a dozen volunteers working with students. The girls had their choice between three full-day classes, where they learned skills and prepared for a community showcase at the end of the day.
In the Mobile Applications class hosted by ATG, girls learned the steps of building software to build a game for the final showcase. Kelsey Iverson of Elevation Web Design hosted the User Experience workshop and helped students learn how to work with clients to design a website that fit their needs and personality. spectrUM Discovery Center hosted Soft Circuits, wherein students built closed-circuit lights into fabric, such as bracelets and patches.
Terri Cheff, director of IT development at Washington Corporations, spoke to the student attendees in the morning, encouraging them to consider a rewarding and lucrative career in technology.
Cheff said technology careers are for lifelong learners, problem-solvers, risk-takers, multi-taskers, and great communicators.
“These are all things girls are naturally good at,” Cheff told the girls. “We already have a leg up on the boys.”
Cheff said having a female role model and strong support network is important for young girls looking to enter the tech sphere, as she herself discovered when a friend encouraged her to study tech during school. Now, she works with ChickTech to help other young women realize their potential in the tech industry.
View photos below.
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About the Author: Katy Spence is the Communications Director for the Montana High Tech Business Alliance. She worked previously with the Missoula Current and Treesource, and has an Environmental Journalism Master’s Degree from the University of Montana.
About the Publisher: Launched in 2014, the Montana High Tech Business Alliance is an nonpartisan nonprofit association of more than 350 high tech and manufacturing companies and affiliates creating high-paying jobs in Montana. For more information, visit MTHighTech.org or subscribe to our biweekly newsletter.