Change The World | WTR 26

Change The World | WTR 26

Live from LFNW Andrea Frost discusses how she went from being a firefighter in Alaska to a computer science major.

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Email Andrea Frost

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ANGELA: This is Women’s Tech Radio.
PAIGE: A show on the Jupiter Broadcasting Network interviewing interesting women in technology. Exploring their roles and how they are successful in technology. I’m Paige.
ANGELA: And I”m Angela. Are you sure about that Paige?
PAIGE: Today I’m not. It’s been a long day at the conference here.
PAIGE: So, we are live here at Linux Fest Northwest. And we got to pull some awesome people off the floor to do interviews today, and our first interview is Andrea Frost. Andrea is a current computer science major. She is getting her Master’s in Computer Science and she gets to talk to us today about robotics, and education, and community building, and a whole bunch of awesome issues that we just dove into.
ANGELA: And before we get into the interview, I want to mention that you can support Women’s Tech Radio and the Jupiter Broadcasting Network by going to You can donate as little as $3.00 a month or whatever amount you want. There’s a swag level where you get free stuff in the mail, or you can just ,like I said, do $3.00 a month. But either way, it’s a giant bucket. It funds all the shows on the network, and specially Women’s Tech Radio, it keeps us going. And now we will get into the interview.
PAIGE: Yeah, so we started today by asking Andrea what she is into in technology right now.
So, welcome to Women’s Tech Radio. I’m Paige
ANGELA: And I’m Angela.
PAIGE: And we’re here live at Linux Fest Northwest and we have an awesome guest joining us, and she’ll take a moment to introduce herself.
ANDREA: Hi, I’m Andrea Frost. I’m getting a Master’s in Computer Science at Western Washington University, and an active member of the WWU Association for Women in Computing.
PAIGE: Awesome. Andrea is joining us to tell us about some of her work as a student, and also her work with getting women involved in technology.
ANGELA: Extensive work in community building and getting more women in technology.
PAIGE: Yeah, we found her on the show floor, or she found us, or a little of both, and we’re just super excited to talk to you. So, could you tell us a little bit about what you’re up to for the community?
ANDREA: Sure, there’s a lot of things, so I’ll try to keep it short. More recently, or coming up pretty soon we’re doing and open source day on May 9th. So, basically what we’re doing is, we’re just trying to expose people to what open source is, and how do you find a project, how do you contribute. So, we’re still looking for mentors and sponsorship. But the event, there’s like 100 people coming. So, that’s super exciting. And then we’re also doing –
PAIGE: Hold on. Okay, May 9th, where?
ANDREA: Yes, May 9th at Western Washington University in the Viking Union 565. It’s the fifth floor.
PAIGE: Okay, how do people find out to volunteer or anything like that?
ANDREA: Well, you can email — can I give my personal email?
PAIGE: If you want to.
ANDREA: Okay, so my email is You can also look us up online, the Association for Women in Computing, and just do WWAWC and then you’ll find our website and there’s contact info there as well.
PAIGE: Awesome. So, they contact you via the Association for Women in Computing?
ANDREA: That’s right.
ANGELA: Cool, so that’s your first thing, and what’s your next thing?
ANDREA: The next thing is that I’m also cofounding a startup in Bellingham, which is a code school called Code Lily. This summer we’re going to be hosting a Whatcom Robotics Expo in cooperation with Western and the Association for Women in Computing, and all of the other robotics related groups. We’re going to bring everyone together under one roof and create that road map so that people can, no matter what age your are, you know where you can find other robotics activities and who are the right people to connect with, and connect everyone to each other.
PAIGE: That’s awesome.
ANGELA: And that’s a four-hour, would you consider it a workshop or a lecture?
ANDREA: It’s from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and it’s free. So, you can basically just drop in any time you want. We’re just going to have the room set up in demo style, so all the different groups are going to be demoing something and then they’re also going to have a way for you, the participants to actually be able to dig in with your own hands and build your own robots. There’s some Littlebits. There’s just a lot of different Robotics activities going on in Whatcom county that most people don’t know about. So, it will be both demos, but also workshops where you can get involved. Each group will be speaking a little bit about their group at some point throughout the day.
PAIGE: So, robots is one of your passions?
ANDREA: I love robots. It’s actually kind of a side thing, but it’s just such an accessible way to relate with technology and computer science specifically, because rather than working in a terminal where you can’t really see something happening, persay, with robots you can actually see it light up. You can see it move. You can actually watch the wheels turn. It’s very tangible. Where, I think, when you’re first starting out with computers that can be a big barrier for a lot of people. I just think robots are a really accessible way to get introduced to it all.
PAIGE: I think that’s a lot of the same reason web tech is that same draw, because you put something up and it’s there right away. How did you get started? What got you into it?
ANDREA: Well, I have a German degree from 2003, so I’m a returning student coming back to school. I traveled for most of my 20s and I was a (unintelligible) firefighter in Alaska. I hurt my leg and I couldn’t work on my feet anymore. I was really stuck. I was like, oh my gosh, what am I going to do now. I worked at a law office for a couple years and I was really under stimulated there. I felt under valued, under stimulated. I tutored my friend’s daughters in math and decided to go back to school to get a master’s in math to become a math teacher. I saw a pretty big problem just with the stigma around math. I couldn’t believe that so many girls get so far without learning the fundamentals of math and thinking that they suck at math. Or thinking I hate math. Math sucks. Math is in everything we do. Math is so beautiful. It’s in everything we look at in nature. So, I think we as a community need to do a better job of promoting women in science, stem, mathematics, all those things. My quarter back in school I took a computer programing class as a prerequisite for the math degree and I was like, what is that? I don’t know what I”m doing. But I ended up getting an A. I did really well. It just blew me away what we can do with a little bit of code on a screen. You can make tremendous changes in the world. I went to the Grace Hopper Conference a couple years ago and I met women from all over the world who are writing things — a simple cellphone app is changing the lives for millions of people in Turkey and Africa, everywhere. I think, women especially, really bring a social component that I personally believe is a little bit lacking currently. I wish there was more focus on morals and ethics and all that kind of stuff around computing too. I think the more diversity we have in computing, we just as a world, as a people will move in a better direction.
ANGELA: Definitely.
PAIGE: Technology is one of the most powerful tools we have right now, just in general. Diverse thinking is only going to make that better.
ANDREA: Absolutely.
PAIGE: And used in a more responsible manner.
ANDREA: Absolutely. Yeah, so diverse teams are basically essential. If you look at a standard computer science class you’re not going to see that many women. Our club is very, very focused on building, not necessarily tutoring each other or helping with homework, but just building community and support so that if we have a hard assignment or have a bad day, it’s like okay lets commiserate about that and then move forward. Where without that community and friendship, and being able to smile at each other in the halls. Things that are very simple, a lot of people without that just tend to give up for feel like they don’t belong there. What we do with our club has really changed a lot of lives. Especially the outreach that we do with kids in our community. It’s just really changing the whole direction of who is in involved in technology and what we can do with it.
ANGELA: What associations do you belong to that help support this?
ANDREA: Most recently we have the Creators and Innovators Club for GIrls, CICE for short. That is a pilot program started this year in Bellingham School District. We thought we we would have 15 girls or so, and we ended up having 57.
PAIGE: Oh my goodness.
ANGELA: Which is amazing.
ANDREA: It is amazing, but we don’t have enough robots for that many people. And we didn’t get enough funding for that many robots. It’s a really good problem to have, but that’s just been amazing watching these girls, or young women. We use Littlebits so they learn about — an accessible way to learn about circuitry and they’ve built their own robots. We did sewable circuits, so like LEDs into clothing. ANd we did NXT robots. All those things. The transformation we’ve seen in them with this program is phenomenal. Next year, we need to expand to four more schools. That is just amazing. So, we need more mentors. We need more funding, but it’s incredible.
PAIGE: Those are great problems to have. That’s awesome. Are you open sourcing your curriculum?
ANDREA: That’s up for debate right now. Mainly because of the fact that we’re having trouble funding these projects. I personally want everything to be open source, more or less, but it also could be potentially an opportunity for us to sale the curriculum and get the funding that we need in order to continue, so we desperately need the funding.
PAIGE: Sure. So, if people are interested in supporting you, how would they do that?
ANDREA: Well, we have, our web address is And so, you can go to that website and send and email and also see some pictures of what we’ve been up to. You can also certainly email me,
PAIGE: And we’ll have links to all that in the show notes. That’s how we do things.
ANDREA: Cool. Yeah, that program has just been tremendous. We have a huge partnership with Western. With the Association for Women in Computing. We have, I think, probably eight to 10 of the mentors right now. So, probably half the mentors are from Western. Sydney Cool is the main woman behind all of that. Though, she, I think, in general tends to stay in the background a little bit. But she’s amazing. I mean, there’s a long list of people that got together to make it happen, but now it will be up to the support of the community in order for that to continue.
PAIGE: And that’s a hard, hard hurdle to overcome, but it’s totally something we can do together. And that’s — one of my passions right now is, there are a lot of women’s organizations and we’re duplicating a lot of work, because everybody is seeing this problem and really, I think, a lot of us are stepping up to say let’s fix it.
ANGELA: To be an advocate.
PAIGE: Yeah, and I would love to just see all of us kind of come together and work together.
PAIGE: And use contacts and stuff like that.
ANGELA: Share funding.
PAIGE: Yeah.
ANDREA: It’s so interesting to see the transformation. The first days the girls were so timid. They were very scared to actually touch anything. Now, they all want to be engineers and they’re super gung ho.
PAIGE: That’s awesome.
ANDREA: So that’s also where the Walk from Robotics expo came in, because we were like, when they’re done with middle school where are they going to go next. Most people just don’t know what are the options. So, it’s a good follow up to this pilot program for Creators and Innovators to then have a Walk from Robotics expo to help guide, not only that group, but the whole community in terms of if you want to learn about robotics where can you go to do that.
PAIGE: Do any of the high school up here have robot teams, like for robot fights or anything like that?
ANDREA: Yeah, the Sehome Seamonsters. They’re the first robotics team. I think they just went to the world championship.
PAIGE: What?
ANDREA: Yeah, it’s amazing. They have an incredible robotics lab that I’m very jealous of.
PAIGE: I mean, you know, you just graduated your first cohort, but are there any existing girls on the high school team?
ANDREA: One girl.
PAIGE: One girl.
ANDREA: Her name is Ky, she’s amazing. She’s also a volunteer with Creators and Innovators, specifically because she’s the only girl. She’s okay with it. There are a lot of women who are totally cool being the only girl in the group, but there’s something very special that happens when women come together and support one another. Now we have 60 girls who want to go on.
PAIGE: That is so cool.
ANGELA: And your website is creative girls?
PAIGE: That’s awesome. So, you’re kind of on the tail end of this. How has getting your master’s been? You went and said, I”m not going to have a traditional career path. You jumped out of planes to fight fire, you did all these crazy things, and then you’ve kind of come back around to education. How has it been being a woman in this more traditional path on the other end?
ANDREA: I am not going to lie. It has not always been very fun. There have been a lot of challenges and a lot of really incredible moments along the way. Going to that Grace Hopper conference was a really huge turning point for me, because I no longer questioned whether or not I belonged there. I was in the presence of 5,000 women. All female technologist from all over the world solving problems in incredible ways, and having fun while doing it, and building community with one another. If I hadn’t gone to that conference I would have only ever been exposed to my university, my class. I would not have realized how much potential there was. Now that I’ve seen that, it’s not even just what you see. It’s what you yourself can create in the future. Now I very much know that i belong here and have a place here, and I’m super excited to be able to spread that passion to other people. I think more people should be involved in technology. There’s tons of jobs. Tons of money. It’s intellectually extremely stimulating. There’s so many benefits to it.
PAIGE: You can change the world.
ANDREA: Yeah, you can change the world.
PAIGE: You can type things and change the world.
PAIGE: That blows my mind every day. You’re like the eight person I”ve talked to just today who says, I got into this but then the real pivot point, the real thing that I’ve needed, or the real thing that I’m excited about is community. Even the guys here, part of being at Linux Fest Northwest is that we come together and we’re all giant geeks together. And I love that. I have to say, there are a lot of women on the floor today.
ANGELA: There have been quite a bit and we have been catching them to get littles bits. It is awesome. I’ve been coming here, well over the last eight years at least six times, and there’s a lot more women here.
PAIGE: Yeah, everybody is saying that. There’s young girls. There’s dads with daughters. It’s changing and I’m excited to be a part of that.
ANDREA: Yeah, me too.
PAIGE: Our traditional last question is what are you most excited about about technology right now.
ANDREA: Well, I don’t know I mentioned earlier, I”m opening a code school. I’m a cofounder for There seems to be a lack of accessible education, so I’m really, really excited about being able to provide that for our community. Recently we taught classes in intro to HTML and JavaScript. I thought that the students who came would be reflective of the student body I see in my classes in college, so mostly guys and couple girls. When we promoted the classes in an open, collaborative, accessible environment, we had 100 percent women.
PAIGE: Whoa.
ANDREA: Anywhere from 16 years old to 60 years old.
PAIGE: And that wasn’t your target?
PAIGE: Whoa.
ANDREA: I mean, we just put it out there to a few people. We didn’t even really advertise it that much. People are interested in learning, but they want to learn in a more collaborative space where it’s not super competitive and intense with grades and all those things. So, we’re able to provide an alternative route. The first class was 100 percent women. THe second class did have a couple guys. It was really an unexpected thing that happened there. So, I think the more we can move in the direction of building community and collaboration, all those things, we will see more diversity in computing. I’m most excited about being involved in that project, because it’s also very fun to be an entrepreneur and I work with an amazing group of people. I just feel really blessed for all of the opportunities in my life.
ANGELA: Thank you for listening to this episode of Women’s Tech Radio. Don’t forget that you can email us, You can also go to to see the backlog of shows or use the contact form to contact us that way.
PAIGE: You can add us to your favorite podcather with our RSS feed, which you’ll find at unders shows, Women’s Tech Radio. Also, check us out on Twitter. And if you have an extra minute leave us a review on iTunes. We’d really appreciate it.
ANGELA: And don’t forget that we do a full transcript of every Women’s Tech Radio show which is now available in the show notes on
PAIGE: And so, if you have people who don’t have time to listen but would like to read, head them that way. Thanks so much.

Transcribed by Carrie Cotter |

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