Computer science and the STEM fields in general have become too much of a boy thing, and for no good reason. Thanks to founder Amy Wibowo, BubbleSort Zines is tackling the tech industry’s inclusivity issue head-on by making computer science accessible and fun for young girls with metaphors, illustrations, and stickers. Here’s what she had to say about it in her interview with us.
What is BubbleSort Zines and what inspired you to do it?
Amy Wibowo: Bubblesort Zines are monthly zines that explain computer science topics with drawings, stories, and comics! I was always doodling in my math and science notes in high school, and I knew I wanted to one day write a math and science reference that was cute and not boring.
After working as a professional programmer for seven years, and feeling the difficulties that come with being a marginalized person in tech, it seemed like the right time to realize my high school dream and share my love of computer science with people who might have been made to feel that programming isn’t for them.
Can you talk more about the numbers regarding girls and boys in elementary versus high school—why is high school such a crucial time to support girls interested in math and science?
AW: Girls and boys have equal interest and equal performance in math and science in elementary school (66% of them like it!) —and it isn’t until junior high and high school that many girls are are discouraged out of participating in math and science classes. Studies show that girls that are encouraged by their science teachers in elementary school are much more likely to take advanced science classes in high school. Just being encouraged was enough. The idea of science and math just being more natural to boys and not girls is just utter bullshit.
The aptitude and the interest is there, and high school is such an important time to support and encourage that interest.
BubbleSort Zines was able to get funded because you put it on Kickstarter. What advice do you have for other women who want to crowdfund a project they’re passionate about?
AW: My advice is “Go for it!” and “You got this!” I’m definitely a dip-your-toes-in-the-water-before-diving-in kind of risk taker and it gave me lots of peace of mind knowing that people were interested in the project and that I’d have money to cover printing costs upfront. A lot of people feel like they have to have a complete project in order to crowdfund it. But only I had the basic idea and a couple chapters of one zine before I put up a Kickstarter page for it.
And, most of the backers of my project didn’t hear about it from news articles, they heard about it from social media. Lots of women are shy and hesitant to promote their own projects and worry that it’s braggy. So I’m here to say that I love hearing about women doing awesome things that they really care about. I want to support and back cool projects. So you are not being braggy, you are doing people a favor by letting them know what what awesome things you’ve done! Don’t be shy about sharing your projects!
What are your hopes for your future and the future of BubbleSort Zines?
AW: I listen to my intuition a lot and do things kind of on a whim, so it’s hard to know for sure what I’ll be doing in the next couple years! But I’d love to maybe expand BubbleSort Zines further to include advanced level computer science topics. I’d also love to hold in person workshops, have a blog of DIY activities that go along with the zine topics, and to incorporate all the feedback that I get from student readers to make the zines better!
I’d also love to start a women-run feminist game studio that makes cute games about women of all races, orientations, body types, and abilities going on grand adventures!
What has been your proudest moment since starting BubbleSort Zines?
Also, when anyone emails me to tell them that they never thought they could like and understand computer science and they do now.
Images courtesy of Amy Wibowo.