#TechTeen – Rory Cosio

Today, we’re launching #TechTeenTuesday, a series of blog posts featuring teen coders, or young people who began as teen coders. With these posts, we want to highlight the amazing things teen coders are capable of, and to show high school students that they are also capable of learning how to code, and to excel in it.

Our first #TechTeenTuesday feature is Rory Cosio, a 14 year old freshman at the Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Miami, Florida who began coding at the age of 12. She is the cofounder of CODeLLA, a coding/entrepreneurship/STEM program serving underprivileged Hispanic girls ages 9-13. She is a winner of the Youth Changing the World (YSA) 2015 Summer of Creativity Grant, a frequent speaker on the need for entrepreneurship and STEM skills for Hispanic middle school students.

Rory’s organization CODeLLA will be sponsoring its own APP competition and a conference for Hispanic families about the importance of STEM/coding/entrepreneurship. If you are in Miami at the end of April we encourage you to attend!

To learn more about her organization, visit www.Codella.org.

How did you first become involved with coding and technology? 

When I was 12, I attended a summer coding camp for beginners. Because of the basic coding skills I learned and my social media abilities I was half-jokingly offered a job helping a small company expand its social footprint.This piqued my interest and prompted me to do some research.

I learned that US jobs in computer science were outpacing qualified students, and that Hispanic women constitute less than 8% of all workers in the computer sciences industry. I was hooked. Since then I’ve enrolled in a coding class with Girls Who Code and started CODeLLA. I am still working on my skills but the more I learn the more I realize that it is not that difficult as long as you have a positive mindset and apply yourself. Anyone with an interest can do it!


Have you created any apps? If so, tell us about it!

I have created several apps on paper but have not actually coded them. With four members of the CODeLLA club (which I started at my school) we have designed a personal safety app for college students, which we will be submitting at the Verizon App competition this month. The next step is to actually create the code to produce it.


What did you think about tech and coding before you began? How have your views changed since you started?

Before I began learned how to code, I thought it would be very difficult. However, I thought it was important to learn how to code in order to create new technology instead of just being a consumer.

I now know that the most difficult step in learning how to code is actually mustering up the courage to start. Once you take that first step it is actually a lot of fun. I think that everyone has the potential to be tech savvy and a coder as long as they don’t give in to their fear of the unknown.


What programming languages are you familiar with? Would you like to learn more programming languages? If so, which ones and why?

The programming languages that I am most familiar with are scratch, html, java, python, and ruby. I would love to learn more about C++, php, and SQL. My goal is to learn as many coding languages as possible. For the time being I’d really like to learn these last three because after researching them I like their functionality.


What is it that you enjoy about programming?

What I enjoy the most about programing is the creative aspect of it – that I can see a problem or something that is lacking in my community, society, school, hobby, etc. and envision a solution and create it. How cool is that?

I love the fact that because I started coding with an entrepreneurial component it has changed my mindset completely. Before, I’d get aggravated about things and wish that someone would fix them or invent something to make life work better I am now looking for those opportunities to see what I can create that was not there before. Problems have now become opportunities.


Are there any resources that have helped you develop your coding skills? If so, what are they?

I am lucky to have a strong STEM program at my school and to have been exposed to robotics, engineering, 3D printing and coding. Unfortunately most schools are not teaching computer science and a large percentage of them don’t even have the bandwidth to do so.

Girls who Code is a wonderful resource for girls to acquire basic coding skills and there are a number of free online platforms such as Codesters and Kahn Academy that you can try from the comfort of your home.

If you are a Hispanic girl between 9 and 13 we are hopeful that there will soon be a CODeLLA program coming to your area. What helped me develop my skills the most is the program/curriculum we have developed at CODeLLA with the help of university professors, educators, coders, and tech entrepreneurs.

My favorite resource is the “Lunch and Learns” that we have created for CODeLLA students, where we get to meet women engineers, computer science and IT professionals, and female tech entrepreneurs who serve as mentors. I think it is essential to see other women achieving what you would like to do because it makes it more attainable. To be able to develop your skills it is essential not only to learn coding skills but to also see how others are applying them and to understand why they are essential for our future and that of our country.


Why do you think students should learn how to code?

Because it takes us from just being consumers of technology to makers of technology. Because it makes you understand that problems have solutions they are not just problems. Because it makes you self-sufficient and engaged in how the world works. Because knowing how to code will help you to get a better job in the future. Because 50% of the entry-level jobs that currently exist will not exist in 10 years but there will be over 1.7 million jobs related to computer science. Because it’s fun!


What advice do you have for other beginners, especially high school students?

I would not necessarily give them advice, but encouragement.

I would congratulate them on taking the hardest step – realizing how important coding is and how it can change their life and their future – and for deciding to give it a try. I would tell them that I hope that they realize that, as with everything new they do, the beginning is always awkward and challenging, and remind them how it was when they learned to swim or play soccer. Coding is no different. I would let them know how great it is that they are taking the necessary steps to be prepared for a 21st century job.


Is there anything else you’d like to say to high school students who are potentially interested in learning how to code?

Take that first step, give it a try and realize that while it may seem overwhelming at first it’s really just about changing your mindset. Didn’t we all feel this way about learning our times tables and now how easy is that. Look at coding from an entrepreneurial point of view and it will open up a world of possibilities. Please feel free to contact me at www.codella.org. 
Good luck!!