LO girls are first local teens to participate in ChickTech

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: WOJTEK RAJSKI - LOHS student Gabriella Metelits, right, and two students from other area schools show off high-tech bling on tote bags at the ChickTech: High School kickoff last weekend.Lake Oswego High School students are among 100 teens participating in ChickTech: High School, a program that kicked off last weekend at Portland State University with a series of hands-on workshops — building a desktop computer, creating a robot, making smartphone applications and fashioning electronic textile designs.

Seven LOHS students participated, including 10th-grader Emilia Wolf, who delved into the art of coding and preparing a website, and junior Ada Zhang, who studied how people craft a website design that is appealing to users.Ada Zhang

“I’m just kind of expanding my horizons,” Zhang said. “I haven’t done anything like this before. ... I’m not incredibly educated in software engineering, and I want to learn little tricks that I can use in the future.”

Wolf said she also is looking to the future.

ChickTech “will help me in narrowing down career choices because I’m not 100 percent sure of what I want to do,” she said.

To participate in ChickTech, students are nominated by their teachers to apply, and ChickTech selects them. This is the first time LOHS students have been involved, and Lakeridge High students could join the ChickTech ranks next year, said Janice Levenhagen-Seeley, founder and director of the organization. Emilia WolfLake Oswego High teachers wanted to nominate 90 students, but only 15 can be nominated per school, Levenhagen-Seeley said.

“It’s always exciting to see schools really pursuing it,” she said. “I always feel that makes all the difference.”

ChickTech is a volunteer-run, nonprofit organization aimed at keeping women in the tech workforce and increasing the number of women and girls pursuing careers in the tech industry.

Wolf’s parents liked the idea of their daughter exploring another academic opportunity.

“We try to open different doors for her to get acquainted with what’s happening in the world,” said Margarita Wolf, Emilia Wolf’s mom. “We think it’s a great opportunity to get involved in technology because we see that life is more and more dependent on technology.”

Levenhagen-Seeley said when the girls present the fruits of their workshop labors, it’s akin to a science fair, and the community comes by to support the students and see what they’ve done.

“The girls are so proud — you can feel it,” she said.

Volunteers who supported the event included Lake Oswego resident William Bowers of Bowers Robotics, who ran a robot-building workshop the last two years. Bowers, who has a son and a daughter attending Lake Oswego schools, said he got involved because he loves his work, piecing together mechanical marvels with human-like skills. ChickTech also appeals to his sense of fairness.

“I want to get more women into the industry, just because it’s needed,” Bowers said. “The industry lacks women. I worked in Silicon Valley for a decade or more, and it’s like you can throw a rock in any direction and you can hit an engineer. When you go to work it was like 30 or 40 guys and one girl.”

Having more women in the tech industry also “adds balance and perspective,” he said.
By Jillian Daley
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