Last night, when the White House turned on its Christmas tree lights to mark this year's holiday season, the world was in for a surprise: this year, thousands of girls controlled those lights, programming them to twinkle and dance as part of Google's Made With Code program.

The Google initiative began earlier this week and continues through January 1st. Google encourages all aspiring coders to visit the Made With Code website and use the tools available to code the lights on their state's tree in President's Park on the grounds of the White House.

Each piece of code programs the lights to put on its own spectacular show. The Made With Code tool allows coders to select specific colors for the lights, as well as create shapes and movement patterns using a simple coding language for beginners called Blockly.

Made With Code is specifically focused in getting girls interested in coding, as well as interested in pursuing careers in computer science. At present, only about one percent of high school girls express a desire to pursue careers in computer science, but Google hopes to change that with Made With Code.

President's Park is part of the National Park Foundation, who worked with Google to make the White House tree lighting project a reality.

"Millions of girls will have the chance to explore science, technology, engineering, and math in connection with one of America's national parks and as part of a historic American holiday tradition," says Dan Wenk, president of the National Park Foundation. "We are grateful for Google's partnership and shared commitment to connecting youth to our nation's treasured places."

Anyone with an interested child just needs to visit the Made With Code website and click on the "Code the Holidays" button. After that, just follow the instructions for programming the Christmas tree lights.

"The tradition of the tree lighting ceremony dates back to 1923 when President Calvin Coolidge lit the first fir tree outside the White House, and this is the first year kids from across the country will be in control of the state and territory holiday tree lights!" writes Pavni Diwanji, Vice President, Engineering on the Google blog.

Once kids finish their tree-lighting programs, they can also use their new coding skills on the Made With Code website for other holiday-themed projects, from creating snowflakes to learning animation skills. Google designed each project to teach kids more about coding and allows those participating to share their finished projects on social media.

[Photo Credit: Tim Evanson/Flickr]

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