By Gabrielle. Photos by Amy Christie for Design Mom.
Last month I went to a lecture about girls and tech given by Cynthia Bailey Lee of Stanford University. Cynthia is a mom of two, and teaches C++ programming, computing theory, processor architecture, and number theory. Specifically her lecture was about getting our daughters and nieces and any other young girls in our lives to get more excited about working with code, and making the coding world more accessible.
One idea she had was making jewelry based on ASCII code. (And if you don’t know what ASCII code is, no worries. It’s all explained below.) I was really taken by this idea! I called Amy Christie and we brainstormed options for both kid jewelry and grown up jewelry (because hey! it’s not too late for us grownups to learn coding either).
The basic idea is to use beads to write your name or initials or a favorite word or a secret message in code. It’s so cool!
I adore how these pieces turned out. I think this would be a really fun activity for a girls night out or a birthday party. This project is the perfect combination of smart, nerdy and pretty. : )
Amy is a jewelry pro and added clasps and hooks to all these pieces, which really step them up quality-wise. But if you find jewelry work intimidating, or try to avoid anything that requires needle-nose pliers, you can still make similar versions. Just use elastic thread and knot it well when you’re done. Easy peasy!
Before we jump into the DIY, let’s talk a little bit about code and share some learning resources for the kids. Here’s what Cynthia, the lecturer, writes about ASCII:
“As I’m sure you’ve heard before, inside a computer, EVERYTHING is numbers — specifically, binary numbers. As far as the computer is concerned, every photo in this post is just a bunch of binary numbers. This blog post, your grandma’s voice and face on Skype, all the movies you watch on Netflix — all these things are just binary numbers.
The computer doesn’t actually distinguish between these things in storing the data or performing computations. Software imposes our human interpretations on the data — it could interpret the exact same binary number as a high pitch sound in one case, as a shade of dark green in another, and in yet a third case as a letter of the alphabet.
When people agree on what interpretation we want to impose on different collections of binary numbers, it gives them meaning in that context. We call these agreed-upon interpretations encoding schemes or just encodings. This activity explores an encoding named ASCII, which is one common way of interpreting binary numbers as letters of the alphabet.”
And here is more from Cynthia on ASCII specifically:
“ASCII is abbreviated from American Standard Code for Information Interchange. ASCII codes represent text in computers, communications equipment, and other devices that use text. Most modern character-encoding schemes are based on ASCII, though they support many additional characters. ASCII was the most common character encoding on the World Wide Web until December 2007, when it was surpassed by UTF-8, which is fully backward compatible to ASCII. The ASCII code for capital letters is shown here:
Unlike base-10 numbers, which can have the digits 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, binary (base-2) numbers can only have the digits 0 and 1 (we usually call the binary digits bits). On this cheat-sheet card, the black squares represent 0 and the white represent 1.”
We also made a printable sheet for you to make things really easy and the link to that is below.
Okay. I think we’re ready. Let’s get nerdy!
Full tutorial, and more coding resources, straight ahead!