Stella Hong worked with other youth coders to create “Outside the Box,” a smartphone app that works to creates a safe space for youth who do not fit in societal norms and expectations, such as LGBTQ+ people, youth with physical disabilities or those suffering from mental health issues. (Image courtesy of Stella Hong)
Whitney High School

Column: Coding a mobile application in two weeks with nonprofit Kode with Klossy

Kode with Klossy is a national coding nonprofit co-founded in 2015 by supermodel, entrepreneur and philanthropist Karlie Kloss. Since the initial camp four years ago, consisting of 21 students, Kode with Klossy exponentially grew each consecutive year, now awarding camp scholarships to thousands of young girls nationwide.

Through July 7 to July 17, I participated in the Los Angeles camp, taught by instructors Lucas Dembart and Marnie Reid, as well as our instructor assistants, Isabella Hochschild, Donna Moon and Hana Stauss. The majority of the students are from the Los Angeles area, ranging from rising freshmen in high school to rising freshmen in college.

In the span of 2 weeks, through daily Zoom calls and coding lessons, the students utilized the programming language Swift, iOS Application developer XCode and group coding platform GitHub. Students split into Zoom breakout rooms of four students to develop an iOS application, ranging from uses such as an educational epilepsy awareness to resources for sustainability to combat climate change.

My group created “Outside the Box,” an application that creates a safe space for unique youth that do not fit in societal norms and expectations, such as members of the LGBTQ+ community, youth with physical disabilities or teenagers suffering from mental health issues. The application provides a dictionary with definitions of words helpful to people learning more about different genders, mental health disorders, and physical disabilities. There is also a “Word of the Day” and “Story of the Day,” designed to provide a spotlight on a new vocabulary word and short story daily.

My favorite part of the day was the lectures and discussions about the culture in technology, emphasizing the importance of online activism, gender equality in the STEM field and digital divide in low-income communities.

Although I loved the syntactical lessons for “if-else” statements and creating variables, the welcoming, open class discussions were my favorite part of the day, as I listened to empowering female youth share their thoughts on the double-edged sword of technology.

Throughout the 2 weeks, with Zoom calls over 450 camp instructors and students, female guest speakers shared their experience and knowledge about their work in unique, interdisciplinary STEM field.

For example, Catie Cuan, Berkeley graduate and Stanford Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical Engineering, is a choreographer, performer and researcher that uses her natural talent in dance to help make robot movement and automation more fluid and cohesive. Her work has been featured on PBS Newshour, CBS’ Mission Unstoppable, Stanford Magazine and Forbes Podcasts.

“One of our accomplishments with this app was having strong communication skills with one another, which allowed us to organize our ideas and turn them into the app we are presenting today,” Jazmeen Maya, an incoming freshman at the UC Irvine said. “This overall helped us bond and overcome the awkwardness that comes with meeting someone new through Zoom.”