Kaya Thomas #ALD16 @findingada


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Check out Scientific American’s interview with coder Kaya Thomas! Via Scientific American

“When I discovered computer science, I realized that I had the tools to create a resource that can increase the discoverability of books.”

When Kaya Thomas began learning to code in college, she saw an opportunity to build technologies that could positively impact people’s everyday lives. Today, she is a full-time student at Dartmouth College who also happens to be the creator of the iOS application We Read Too, an app that encourages children to read books by and for people from underrepresented backgrounds. Between learning about programming in her classes, and using those skills to directly build an application with thousands of users, Kaya is a force to be reckoned with. This year, Kaya was featured as one of Glamour’s 2016 College women of the year. In 2015, she met Michelle Obama when she was honored at the “Black Girls Rock” Awards.

After learning about how Kaya uses code to bridge gaps between readers and authors, we reached out to hear to learn more about how code can impact people’s lives. Check out our conversation below, which has been edited for clarity

TERRI BURNS: Tell me about your background, what you’re studying in school, and some of your interests.

In high school, I became interested in STEM. I took environmental studies classes in high school and was a part of clubs related to environmentalism, and I thought that’s what I would study in college. But when I got to Dartmouth in 2013, I realized I didn’t really want to do environmental engineering. I ended up stumbling into computer science, and fell in love with it.

Tell us about your app

The idea for We Read Too started back in high school because I was an avid reader but started to notice the lack of representation in the books I was reading. I would get my books from the library and mainly all the characters were white girls from the suburbs. It started to get to me because I was in a time in my life where I was struggling with my own self-image and I really wanted to be able to read stories about girls like myself. When I discovered computer science, I realized that I had the tools to create a resource that can increase the discoverability of books that I wanted to read. I wanted a way for these books to be readily accessible and that’s why I made We Read Too. It started out containing 300 books, now it has over 600.

What’s been the most challenging part about working on We Read Too, from both a technical and non-technical standpoint?

When I first starting coding We Read Too, I was just learning iOS development. As any beginner it was hard to understand how an app works as a whole, and I think I overwhelmed myself with too many ideas which made it difficult to develop because I was trying to make too many features at once. What helped me is creating a bunch of smaller applications from online tutorials from start to finish. It allowed me to understand application architecture and kto now how features can interact with each other. From those small applications I was able to piece together what I needed for We Read Too.

Read the rest of the interview here! Learn more about her app We read too!

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October 11th is Ada Lovelace Day! Today the world celebrates all of the accomplishments of women in science, art, design, technology, engineering, and math. Each year, Adafruit highlights a number of women who are pioneering their fields and inspiring women of all ages to make their voices heard. Today we will be sharing the stories of women that we think are modern day “Adas” alongside historical women that have made impacts in science and math.

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