When opening a website, few people know exactly how it was created or what coding it takes to make the background pink.
For Doonyah Alucozai, an eighth grader at West Lafayette Jr./Sr. High School, her interest in coding went above and beyond most 14-year-olds’ ambitions.
With the help of her sister Farah Alucozai, a junior in the College of Health and Human Sciences, Doonyah has brought a coding program to West Lafayette that is available for youth from ages 7 to 17 called CoderDojo.
CoderDojo is a global-based volunteer program that promotes teaching computer coding to young people.
“A couple of months ago I was enrolled in the Women in Engineering program through Purdue and they had a bunch of cool engineering things, but I was never really excited about them,” said Doonyah. “Then there was this ‘Introduction to Code’ session, but it was only a week long, and I kind of hesitated to sign up because I didn’t know anything about it.”
After her week of coding instruction was over, Doonyah was left craving more.
“It was over in the blink of an eye, so I felt like we needed something that was continuous and not just a week long,” said Doonyah.
From then on, Doonyah was intent on finding something else to keep her passion for coding ignited.
“She asked my parents if there was something they could enroll her in year-round, and after they couldn’t find anything, Doonyah was like, ‘Well we need to do something about this,’” said Farah.
“That was when I discovered CoderDojo,” said Doonyah. “I reached out to the headquarters to start a program in West Lafayette and they responded back saying that I could start it, but I needed an adult, so that’s where Farah came in and helped me organize it.”
Hesitant at first, Farah agreed to help her sister get her vision off the ground.
“I have no background at code; I’m not technical at all, but the beauty is that you don’t have to be technical to be in this organization,” said Farah.
She knew that in order to make the program successful, her sister would have to heavily promote it. She has worked to spread the organization’s name across all forms of social media.
It all fell into place once they received permission to hold their organization’s meetings in the Anvil on Purdue’s campus.
“The Anvil facilitates all of our needs like high speed Internet and a wide open space that works as a safe space for the kids,” said Farah.
Their first information session generated a crowd larger than the two sisters had imagined could be possible.
“We were expecting 50 to 60 people at the grand opening, and we had a turnout of somewhere around 150 to 160 people,” said Farah. “This huge turnout just proved the point to us that there is a need for a group like this in the area.”
They expect the number of participants to grow steadily by their next meeting.
“The majority of these were parents, too, who didn’t have their kids with them so that number can easily double,” said Doonyah. “I got a lot of emails from parents saying that they weren’t able to make the callout, but were interested in coming to the sessions. So we are still counting.”
The two sisters are still in need of something, though, if they expect to make this a long-lasting program in West Lafayette.
“Right now the only way we can make this successful is if we have mentors to help, which includes Purdue students and even parents,” said Farah. “It isn’t necessary to have a coding background, but if someone did that would be great.”
For more information on becoming a mentor or enrolling in the program, the Alucozai sisters encourage prospective members to visit their website created by Doonyah, http://coderdojoanvil.com, for meeting dates and registration forms.