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The League Returns

It’s a tradition. Every summer, over 500 middle and high school students gather at Cornell to participate in 4-H Career Explorations, a week-long event that provides hands-on experience in fields and career paths that could one day turn into richly rewarding life’s work. For the second year in a row, in late June Mann Library joined the program by offering a popular “League of Coders” workshop to a group of enthusiastic teenagers.

Twenty one students spent three days at Mann Library getting coached by library staff on the science and art of designing and coding a user-friendly, visually appealing website that provides information about women in technology. Specific lessons touched on using sketches to convey an idea quickly and effectively and developing paper prototypes to conduct user testing. Finally, students also learned to code a few key features using HTML, CSS and JavaScript. An important theme: the importance of putting the website’s users—in this case, fellow teenagers—at the center of all design considerations.

“The library plus every big tech company, such as Facebook and Google, uses these user-centered design methods,” said Darcy Branchini, manager of Land Grant IT at Mann and one of the workshop’s coordinators. “It’s pivotal to better understanding users and addressing their needs when developing an application.”

By the end of the week, 21 students walked away from their computer stations and study tables at Mann freshly acquainted with some key principles in good website design—and with a good taste of both the challenges and sweet rewards of one of what has become a key career of the 21st century. Not bad for a few days’ work at the library!

Based on a Cornell Chronicle article by Susanna Plotkin ’18.