IGNITE Kickoff Event at Hilltop High School

“I liked creating the ellipses and making it change colors and move. It was different from
code.org. It is more advanced.” said student host, Carolina, located on the far left.


Ignite Panel of Women Engineers Speak & Teach in the Bay Area at Hilltop High School!

Mr. Alter & Mr. Lu


Hilltop High School is a WASC accredited alternative school located in San Francisco, California. Our students are all pregnant and parenting teens. On October 29, 2018, eighteen of our students participated in an introduction to coding workshop. In this IGNITE training, students learned about science pathways as they heard from scientist Christine Beavers of COMPRES Beamline in England who joined us through a video conference call and Software Engineering student, Acelia Castenada, a San Mateo City College student who guided Hilltop students in a coding activity. Carolina, a Career and Technology Education Arts & Media student and host to the visiting panel, introduced her peers to these professionals who came from a variety of backgrounds. She led the discussion with questions about the reasons why the panel was all women and why STEM fields have such a low percentage of women in the profession.


Panelist Christine gave our students encouraging words as she shared her own experience as a teen mom whose interest in chemistry was sparked when she did an experiment in which sodium and chlorine reacted together explosively to form simple table salt. Even though she faced the challenges of being a student and young mother, Christine persevered and entered the field of crystallography and said that she was still fascinated with exploring the world of atoms. College student Acelia, an up-and-coming Latina studying computer engineering, guided the young women in an introductory coding project. Using the online coding environment Trinket, Acelia showed our students how to use Python to size a window, change colors, and move an ellipse in a repeated pattern across the screen. While a few of our Hilltop juniors and seniors have used drag and drop block programming on Code.org, it was the first time that any of our students had experience entering code in a text-only programming environment. Many of them were intrigued by watching changes on the screen as they changed a few numbers in the code. School STEM instructors Mr. Alter and Mr. Lu, along with other school faculty and staff, supported and encouraged students as they advanced their learning of coding in Python.

One of the Hilltop High students, Tierra, in the photo above, expressed her introduction to this training workshop to Mr. Lu, saying, “I learned what coding was and I want to learn more.” Both panelists helped to engage students around concepts in computing. Student Tierra along with her classmate, Oriana, questioned the panelists on their skills and educational background and
the type of training needed to enter a profession in STEM. All the girls said this was a new experience and were introduced to many new ideas about the challenges women face in the STEM field and the need for more women to shape the way technology is designed.

Left Photo (left to right): Amber Zertuche, Regional Director of San Francisco; Isabel, Hilltop High School student; Acelia Castaneda, Software Engineering Student, San Mateo City College; Bryan Twarek, San Francisco Unified School District, Computer Science Program Administrator

Right Photo (left to right): Acelia Castaneda, Software Engineering Student, San Mateo City College; Flor, Hilltop High School student



A few quotes from our students as they reflected on their insights, connections, and the panel presentation:

“It was good to hear that it’s not just a career, but an exploration of a lot of things in science and math. That’s how they decided what they wanted to do for a career.’’ -Tierra


“Playing with the oval on the screen and making it change colors was cool.” - Elizabeth


“I learned that scientists are on social media.” -Oriana


“I’ve never done this before. It was cool for me to make the image with the computer scientist. I learned how to use number combinations to make different colors.” -Isabel


"The highlight that I enjoyed from today's event was talking to the lady from English, she was a teen parent also." - Tierra


"I learned new things like making an image that moves and how it was made by coding." - Diana


On behalf of Hilltop High School, San Francisco Unified School District, students and faculty, we are appreciative and thankful to IGNITE for making this career exploration opportunity possible!