Amira Johnson wants her peers to see that STEM careers aren’t boring

When Amira Johnson first started school at Pittsburgh Science & Technology Academy in Oakland, she was placed in its “Girls Who Code” club — and she wasn’t pleased.

Back in sixth grade, she would have preferred the movie club, but she was one of the last kids to pick.

Working with a former computer science teacher who she looked up to, Amira learned how to program on the Arduino platform, which includes easy-to-use hardware and software. She eventually wrote code to make her Christmas tree lights dance to music.

Now a sophomore, the 14-year-old has learned other coding languages like Python, which can be used for almost any application but is popular in data analysis, and Javascript, which makes web pages interactive.

Amira wants to be a mentor to other girls who may not see science, technology, engineering and math careers as exciting.

“At school, I make sure I’m a role model for younger kids in addition to making sure I’m a role model for all of my friends,” said Amira, who lives in Crafton.

So she has started up a local chapter of TechnoVation, a program that pushes girls to become interested in entrepreneurship and STEM careers. Through a specialized curriculum, the young women in the program develop a mobile app to solve a problem in their community.