Google and Pixar Are Teaming Up to Get Girls to Love Coding

December 8, 2015, 7:42 PM UTC
A scene from the "Inside Out" coding tutorial from Pixar and Google.
Courtesy of Pixar and Google

Did you Google today? If so, you might have spotted an intriguing link at the bottom of the search engine’s home page, calling on girls to “code a movie scene.”

Clicking on that invite sends you to Google’s Made with Code site, which features a new collaboration with animation giant Pixar. Just click “start coding” and you’re inside a scene from the hit film Inside Out.

The program allows you to control the animated actions of Riley, the movie’s protagonist, using Blockly, a simple, graphical coding language. When stacked together in the correct order, coding “blocks” prompt Riley though activities like sliding down a banister, running through her living room, and playing hockey. According to Google, which created the language, Blockly introduces users to basic coding principles like sequencing, if / then statements, and looping.

The collaboration is a celebration of Computer Science Education Week, which kicked off on Monday. Speaking to USA Today, Pixar’s director of photography Danielle Feinberg said the project aims to dispel “the mythology [that] seems to imply that you really have to be a genius in order to code.”

While Google’s Made with Code initiative is intended to get both boys and girls interested in coding and computer science, it’s no accident that Google and Pixar opted to use Riley—a young girl—as the project’s protagonist: There’s a clear need to create CS offerings that speak to girls.

According to statistics cited on the Made with Code site, 74% of girls express interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields in middle school, yet by the time they reach high school, only 0.3% of them plan to major in computer science. A recent Gallup survey commissioned by Google found that girls are less likely than their male counterparts to say they feel “very confident” about their ability to learn computer science skills and less likely to say that they plan to pursue CS in the future.

For girls who get a kick out of making Riley do their bidding, there’s plenty more to check out on the Made with Code site, including Minecraft-based and Star Wars coding tutorials. The latter features heroines Princess Leia and Rey, as well as the droids R2-D2 and BB-8. Google also offers videos of inspiring female coding mentors, links to other places to learn code online, and, for parents and teachers who want to help out, a how-to kit for throwing a kids’ “coding party.”

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