Bytes of Code

I founded Bytes of Code to teach CS and leadership skills to girls in underserved communities, empowering them to be future leaders of STEM.

Photo of Erica
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Additional categories (optional)

  • Technology

Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

June 4, 2002

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Date You Started Your Project Started

April 16, 2018

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

According to MIT, 40% of women quit or never enter the STEM fields because they are so male-dominated. Elementary and middle schools often do not offer fun, challenging STEM classes that could appeal to girls at a young age. Societal stereotyping and insufficient mentorship further perpetuate the problem. It is important to encourage girls and young women to learn technology and leadership skills in order to provide equal opportunities for all.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

I will continue to solicit grants and sponsorships in order to hold STEM and leadership workshops in cities where girls of color will benefit the most, as I did when I relocated my workshop from UC Irvine to the city of Santa Ana. Because I believe in the effectiveness of peer-to-peer teaching, I will encourage my graduates to volunteer with me or start their own workshops. I plan to continue perfecting the curriculum I have developed so that girls will find it engaging; for example, they will learn by doing fun activities like coding a Sphero Robot to walk through a maze, rather than poring through Java textbooks. I plan to continue arranging tours at local high-tech companies like Google, where the girls can speak to female employees and gain a better understanding of education paths and the realities of working in such companies. Finally, I plan to create a family buy-in by involving parents with updates and information, so that they can continue to support their girls’ STEM journeys after my class ends. Finally, I hope to reach more girls through my global ambassadors, who will implement my curriculum for the girls in their own communities.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

My Chinese grandfather often told my mother that he wished she had been born a boy. He discouraged her from studying math and science—areas traditionally reserved for men. With my parents' encouragement, I have decided to make it my life's work to dismantle such harmful perspectives. My journey to promote equality began after I immigrated to America and saw “Computer Engineering” printed on my career aptitude test. Instead of being curious and excited for me, my girlfriends laughed and said, “Ew. That is so nerdy.” Their comments not only hurt me, but also made me wonder whether they realized that STEM could actually be fun. I concluded that for whatever reason, perhaps like my mother at their age, my girlfriends had yet to be exposed to or encouraged to pursue STEM. That was when I decided to find an innovative way to introduce STEM, combined with leadership skills, to girls.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

...with each Bytes of Code program, I can see firsthand the impact on each individual. Six years ago, I was just like my students, but after attending a computing and leadership workshop, I changed from a shy, immigrant girl without much English ability to a confident, academically successful, socially engaged teen leader. It was there that I first learned of the gender gap in STEM. Now, I am stepping up to host my own workshop, so as to pay forward the same opportunities that I was given.

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

I believe Bytes of Code made its first stride to close the gender gap in STEM with its inaugural camp at UC Irvine. One day, two students named Julissa and Yayoy showed me an app they had worked on at home voluntarily after we had run out of time during class. During the career exploration workshop, I watched them pepper female Google employees with questions about their backgrounds, college studies, and career choices. Both occasions have made me feel that my mission is succeeding. Comparing these girls from day one—timid and afraid of asking the wrong questions—to showing off their personal websites and demonstrating to their parents how they could command the Sphero robot to do whatever they wanted with a few lines of codes—I know I have helped them become interested in, more confident and comfortable with technology. Perhaps now they might consider a career in the STEM fields.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

My project is different from others like it because it targets underserved girls of color like myself. The workshops are strategically located so transportation is not an issue. Our flyers are in Spanish and translation is offered during our final ceremony. Classes are taught in a peer-to-peer model, covering STEM concepts overseen by a Berkeley student-advisor, using leadership skills I learned from Stanford University’s Miss CEO program. We also hold a career day at a high-tech company. My curricula are being translated into the four languages I speak in order to reach more girls globally.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

By the end of my next Bytes of Code workshop, I will have raised over $30k in grants and sponsorships, spent over 2,000 instructional hours teaching and developing my curriculum, impacted 800+ through my own workshops, and appointed 20 global ambassadors in Asia, Africa and Central America, who have put on similar workshops impacting 75k+ girls through their outreach activities. After my first workshop, a few mothers approached me and told me that in their predominantly Hispanic and immigrant community, there were not many affordable technology programs, especially for girls. Because of those conversations, I have since relocated my program to the city of Santa Ana, in order to serve girls who will benefit most. Of my program, the Santa Ana Public Library noted: “We obtained a positive community response and several requests for coding programming,” and this continues to drive me.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

The next thing I plan to do is apply for non-profit status so that I can solicit more funds and continue to grow my organization. In the near future, I will be working with the African Methodist Episcopal University and the Liberian student entrepreneurship organization to host a series of STEM workshops, allowing students living in rural areas to personally experience technology and computing. I hope to grow the leadership board, recruit more global ambassadors, partner with a global technology firm and create more online curricula in different languages so that the program will spread internationally. Ultimately, I intend to continue promoting STEM to underrepresented girls everywhere.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Marketing Strategy

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100
  • Donations between $100-$1k
  • Donations between $1k-$5k

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • T-Mobile page or contact
  • Email


Join the conversation:

Photo of Lily

This is a great project! I hope you will reach out to more girls and give them awesome opportunities in STEM and computer science. It will definitely benefit our society!

Photo of Aliz Marie Sanchez

#More girls on STEM !

Photo of Erica

Thank you. We definitely need lots more.

Photo of Julia

Congratulations on an incredible project! I love the promotion of women in stem! I wish you all the best as you continue to develop your awesome project!

Photo of Erica

Hi Julia, Thank you for the encouraging words.