Chip Girlz, a group of Sunnyside Intermediate School students learning computer coding at the Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line, will compete Saturday in the online Code Girls United Northwest Regional App Challenge, where they will present the app and business plan they ‘ ve been working on since the beginning of the school year to judges along with teams from Billings, Joliet, Red Lodge and the Flathead area.
Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line Youth Development Assistant Angela Rhines has been working with the Havre students since September of last year, developing an app called Navigating the Havre Boys and Girls Club, which, as its name implies, helps people unfamiliar with the club learns about out it and what it’s like for students.
Rhines said the group got its name after she started bringing snacks to meetings and found the students had a fondness of chips, leading to a bit of wordplay in their name.
She said the development of the group’s app was slow going at first, as none of the students had prior experience with coding, but things became easier over time, and they had plenty of resources to help them.
“It was a little tough, slow at times, but they did their best and we had lots of help,” she said.
She said the students have been using MIT App Inventor a free platform for designing phone applications including visual layouts and code.
Rhines said the group has also done market research to inform the business side of their upcoming presentation and they’ve all done good work despite the initial struggles the group faced.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s been challenging, but the girls have had a lot of fun, they’ve been doing really well with it.”
Chip Girlz members Ava Mooney, Zoe Duke and Cadente Smith said they’re excited for the competition Saturday.
Chip Girlz member Brylea Pearson was not available on the day of the interview.
At Saturday’s competition the students will present their app and business plan to judges at 9 am with three finalist teams facing off at 1:30 pm for scholarship prizes of up to $ 5,000 per team.
Montana First Lady Susan Gianforte will be attending the event and at 1 pm will talk about her personal story of why she decided to become an engineer.
Rhines said the group has done a lot of team building exercises in the months since the group was formed and they aren’t about the program being over after Saturday.
However, she said, the club is hoping to continue the coding program next year, and they are looking to do some work over the summer as well.
“We’re hoping to do this next year, it’s been a lot of fun,” she said.