Closing the coding gap, one camp at a time

March 9, 2022

Meet Mihir Amin

Mihir Amin (he/him) pays forward mentorship he got early on to help kids get into programming. His own love for programming began at a young age, thanks to a high school computer science class led by a teacher who fostered his passion for code.

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“He showed me how fun programming can be. It is what sparked my passion about building things,” says Amin.

Amin’s teacher simplified the fundamentals of code by making them interactive. 

“[To learn] some of the data structures, he would put us physically inside the structures,” says Amin. “[To learn] about queues, stacks, arrays and the operations you can do on them, he set up a line of chairs and had us act like the items in those structures. For logical thinking, we played a robotic game where you had to move up, down, left and right.” 

With an encouraging teacher in his corner, Amin’s excitement led him to pursue a programming career in healthcare. He is now an engineering team captain on Olive’s Software Engineering team and Shiftwork Experience. 

Amin is determined to pay it forward and inspire the next generation of engineers through his work with HERO Code Camp — an event for girls in grades 3-12 designed to give beginner students an introduction to STEM and more advanced students the opportunity to grow their skills. 

“I want to help show these kids that they can build anything and hope to get them interested in programming,” says Amin.

Closing the coding gap

Though tech maintains a healthy annual growth rate, the industry still struggles with representation and diversity. STEM fields in the United States are predominantly male, with women only making up 28% of the field’s workforce.

The AAUW reports that girls are often discouraged from a young age from learning about and joining STEM-related fields because they are categorized as masculine. With a lack of female role models and little exposure to STEM in school for girls, the gender disparity in the field endures.

Enter HER Academy, an organization striving to educate young girls in technology and computer science to close the gender gap in STEM. One of HER Academy’s most popular educational resources is HERO Code Camp, a collaboration powered by Olivian volunteers like Amin who are determined to share their love of programming with the next generation.

This group of volunteers works hard to make HERO Code Camp a reality each year. Amin is one of seven Olivians on the committee organizing Code Camp, driving the planning meetings to help set the event up for success.

There were six courses offered at this year’s camp — one taught by the HER Academy team and five taught by Olive volunteers.

Olive and HER Academy joined forces through mutual board member Chris Olsen of Drive Capital. Chris connected HER Academy’s Dr. Lena Furci with Olive’s Joel Chakra for a 2019 all-staff presentation. Following that presentation, a group of interested employees toured the HER Academy facility in Columbus and put on the first in-person code camp just a few months later.

The program’s core tenet is to get more girls interested in coding, and it provides courses for all experience levels. The only thing expected of students during their time with Code Camp is that they build something.

HERO Code Camp’s courses are geared toward different experience levels based on the student’s current understanding of coding principles. (For more information on how to choose a course, check out the prerequisites for each level.)

Success in Code Camp does not depend upon whether a student’s program runs or who can build the fastest or learn the most programming languages. HERO Code Camp simply wants to get more girls interested in coding.

“If students leave the camp excited about what they have built and eager to learn more, it will be a successful camp for us,” says Amin.

Success in all grade levels

HERO Code Camp is learning and changing right alongside its students. Last year’s camp was technically aimed at students in grades 5-12, but a second grade student was able to join one of the beginner courses. 

“This student did a great job!” says Amin. “She was able to follow along with everything the other students were doing and was engaged in the class. Because of how well this student did, this year we opened that specific course to third and fourth graders as well.”

What’s next for HERO Code Camp?

This year, Code Camp’s attendance soared with a record 150 students logging on from 18 states. In the coming years, Code Camp leaders hope to continue the program’s growth.

“I think [we] would like the program to continue to increase in students registered, but also have some corporate sponsors,” says Amin.

HERO Code Camp is always looking for support. To simplify things, volunteers are restricted to internal staff at Olive and HER Academy. For those looking to get involved in other ways, spreading the word is crucial. HERO Code Camp is an annual event, so keep a lookout for more information about next year’s Camp in 2023 — girls in grades 3-12 can register.

Code Camp is also always looking for corporate sponsors. Interested parties can reach out directly to Amin at mihir.amin@oliveai.com