ALMA and AUI invite girls to program with the “Hour of Code”

13 October, 2017

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), representative of the North American partner of this observatory, invited around 40 girls from the San Alberto school in Estación Central to ALMA’s corporate building to play and learn with programming concepts, as part of the Hour of Code movement.

The Hour of Code is a global movement that invites girls and boys to spend an hour playing, learning and creating with technology. On this occasion, it reached sixth- and seventh-grade girls from San Alberto, a school with a telecommunications technical-professional specialization.

The students met with Liza Videla, ALMA astronomer, who explained how the observatory work and taught them about radio astronomy. Her presentation also showed how radio astronomy uses large volumes of data from celestial objects and phenomena in the sky, using cutting-edge technology to turn this data into information about the formation of our Universe, the planets, and the stars.

Likewise, the Hour of Code shows children that there is an enormous amount of data and technological devices in our daily lives that can be used, through programming, to play, learn and create. This learning also promotes other skills: problem-solving, logical thinking, creativity and teamwork.

The girls from San Alfonso met in ALMA’s corporate building in Santiago and were able to program basic commands in games based on popular childhood movies and icons such as Star Wars and Frozen.

Misadel Marín, a sixth-grade student, said: “I really liked learning about technology, and we learned a lot of things with different games.” While her classmate Dominic Guzmán said, “it was a really fun visit because we were able to learn about astronomy and what it involves; and we also learned to program, expanding our knowledge.”

“For ALMA and AUI, the promotion of female participation in the development of the different areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is paramount. This group of society requires a greater insertion and retention in these areas, which shows that we are still not using all our existing human talent,” said Paulina Bocaz, director of AUI in Chile.

As its name indicates, the Hour of Code lasts for about one hour; within this time frame, the idea is for participants to achieve as many coding lines as possible to run a game. These can be developed with any device, including tablets and smartphones.

The Hour of Code has reached millions of students of all ages in over 180 countries. Participants need no prior experience in programming. In Chile, close to 300 organizations in the private and public sector, as well as educational establishments, disseminate this initiative. For more information on the Hour of Code, visit www.hourofcode.com.

Images of the girls visiting ALMA in Santiago. Credit: S. Cabezón – ALMA (NRAO/NAOJ/ESO)

Additional information

ALMA is a partnership of ESO (representing its member states), NSF (USA) and NINS (Japan), together with NRC (Canada), NSC and ASIAA (Taiwan), and KASI (Republic of South Korea), in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. The Joint ALMA Observatory is operated by ESO, AUI/NRAO and NAOJ.