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Model, Coder Karlie Kloss to Speak at Technica

24-Hour Hackathon Expected to Attract 900 Female, Nonbinary Coders

By Richa Mathur

Students work at Technica

Photo by John T. Consoli

This year's Technica, the 24-hour UMD-hosted hackathon for women and nonbinary people, will feature Karlie Kloss (below)—supermodel, entrepreneur and advocate for women in computing and STEM—as the closing speaker.

Technica just turned it up.

Tomorrow through Sunday, UMD will host the world's largest 24-hour hackathon for women and nonbinary people, featuring Karlie Kloss—supermodel, entrepreneur and advocate for women in computing and STEM—as the fifth annual event's closing speaker.

Karlie Kloss headshotStudents and professionals of all ages who enjoy coding and design will come together at the Reckord Armory to create usable, functional products in a space that is safe, welcoming and empowering for groups who aren’t well represented in the world of computing. 

Organizers are expecting 900 participants—the limit—this year, up from just a few hundred at its founding. This year’s theme is “Go Beyond,” encouraging women and gender nonbinary people to defy obstacles and boundaries. 

“Technica does not stop after Technica weekend. You go beyond your expectations, as a mentor, friend or a coworker,” said Shruthi Das ‘21, co-executive director of Technica.

While employment in computer and mathematical occupation is projected to increase to 12.7% from 2018 to 2028, only 18% of all computer and information sciences undergraduate degrees in the United States go to women, according to a 2012 report from the National Center for Women & Information Technology. 

UMD has one of the largest female computer science populations in the country, with over 750 women pursuing undergraduate degrees in computer science. 

The University of Maryland’s Iribe Initiative for Inclusion and Diversity in Computing focuses on creating an inclusive environment from different genders, races, ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, disabilities status and sexual orientations. 

The Maryland Center for Women in Computing (MCWIC) under the umbrella of the Iribe Initiative, encourages and engages girls and women in computing through outreach programs such as summer camps, workshops and professional development opportunities in collaboration with the local K–12 schools. It supported over 2,500 K–12 students and over 750 UMD students in the 2018–19 academic year. 

“Technica is a great opportunity for these audiences, whatever their experience level,” said Jandelyn Plane, a principal lecturer in the Department of Computer Science and director of the Iribe Initiative and MCWIC.

“For the students who don't have a lot of computing experience, the training sessions before Technica and the teamwork aspect allow them to learn and explore,” she said. “For those students who do have more computing experience, the hackathon is a great creative outlet.” 

Technica has about 75 student organizers, many of whom have worked at the hackathon in previous years. It provides them with opportunities to both contribute and learn, and gain experience that could pave the way for their future careers.

“The value that our organizers see is that they're learning skills that you don't really learn in the classroom,” said Faatemah Mallick ’20, co-executive director of Technica.

Liz Wessel, co-founder and CEO at WayUp, which helps recent graduate and college students connect with companies for hiring, collaboration and fundraising, will give the event’s opening remarks. 

Kloss, known both for her ability to write a line of code and introduce a new line of clothing on the runway, founded Kode with Klossy, which hosts about 50 free summer coding camps for teenage girls around the United States. The program partners with Teach for America to recruit and hire camp instructors. 

Kloss is appearing at the invitation of Brendan Iribe, a Maryland alumnus and co-founder of the virtual reality company Oculus. Iribe shares the vision of creating an inclusive environment for everyone interested in computing, and made a $1 million gift to launch UMD’s Iribe Initiative for Inclusion and Diversity in Computing.

Technica participants say that initiatives by both Kloss (Kode With Klossy) and Wessel (WayUp) have been instrumental in impacting the motivation and confidence of women coders.

“It's a very inspiring initiative where a model has started such a bold move in which she supports young women in computer science. I'm looking forward to listening to her thoughts and experiences,” said computer science major Jainy Patel ‘20.

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