It is not a secret. The number of female IT specialists has fallen by more than 10% since 1995. According to the Girls Who Code, many girls lose interest between the ages of 13 and 17.
To get more girls interested in coding, a Swedish-owned Swedish startup called imagiLabs is launching an intelligent keychain and an app that young women can use to learn how to learn coding in a fun and playful way.
The imagiLabs app teaches the basics of coding so you can learn to create creative images like flowers, animated gradients, animals and emoji. The app connects to imagiCharm via Bluetooth so that you can view your project on the go with your keychain.
Dora Palfi, CEO of imagiLabs, said that she recognized the inequality of women in the technology industry early on in her own technology career. Awakening young girls’ interest in coding can open up future career opportunities and help them be more successful in an increasingly digital economy, she said.
“If women are not part of the technology, we cannot use the technology to solve our problems,” said Palfi.
In a video chat, Palfi explained the importance of community support for women in technology. She wants to build that for girls with imagiCharm.
The superpower of coding
You can view other users’ projects in the imagiLabs app. Some involve scrolling text, while others are solid blocks of colors, hearts, and shapes. A user even encoded an animated Pikachu. You can leave positive comments about other people’s projects and try to re-create them for yourself.
The app raised over $ 60,000 on Kickstarter last year. Last year, in the first 30 days of the app, imagiLabs reported 400 shared coding projects that represent over 25,000 lines of code. According to Palfi, the company’s long-term goal is to build a social network for female programmers.
On the “Learn” tab, the app guides you through coding a heart. imagiLabs uses gamification to help users understand how a line of code relates to the image you create. The lessons cover turning on the pixels, assigning and creating colors for your project. When you’ve completed a lesson, you’ll level up and earn a “superpower.”
“Coding is a superpower,” said Palfi. “You get these super powers that you can use to create things and solve problems.”
Palfi demonstrated how imagiCharm works via the video call. When she “woke up” the device, the interface of the imagiCharm opened her eyes, which awakened nostalgic memories of the early Tamagotchi. Palfi connected her cell phone to the Charm via Bluetooth and uploaded a code project. The imagiCharm displayed the image almost immediately. Any changes she made to the code on her phone have been translated into the charm and the picture in the keychain has been updated.
The imagiCharm is delivered worldwide and can be purchased individually (USD 78, GBP 62) or in a double pack (USD 148, GBP 118). The company also offers a premium imagiCharm ($ 98, £ 78) and a premium two-pack ($ 171, £ 136). The Premium Charms contain 12 hours of learning content that users can access via email.
According to Palfi, users don’t need to have a spell to use the free app. The company is also working on hosting coding contests where users can try to win a charm. imagiLabs is also exploring collaboration with companies to sponsor charms for girls who may not be able to afford them.
The imagiCharm and its app should be a mixture of fun and challenge, with the focus on positivity and learning as a community, said Palfi. “You should just have fun with it – it’s not about making it perfect,” she added. Immediate feedback can also help you learn quickly and correct the course.
The community is the backbone of the entire project, said Palfi. Users encourage and complement each other in the comments and program digital “gifts” for each other. It is exciting when others try out your project. It is an inviting place where you can learn easily and feel comfortable.
“Get creative,” said Palfi. “Do it yourself and don’t be afraid.”