Middle-School Computer Discovery Camp for Girls
Twenty-nine middle-school girls started down the path toward a computer science career at a camp held at Main Campus this summer.
The demand for computer science professional continues to grow, but the numbers of women and underrepresented minorities entering the field are not keeping pace. According to NSF, STEM jobs will grow at twice the rate of the economy to 2018, with the largest growth in computer and mathematics occupations. Yet a recent study, “Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,” by the American Association of University Women, noted, “Women’s representation among computer science bachelor’s degrees is decreasing…. In 1986, women earned one out of every three bachelor’s degrees awarded in computer science; by 2006, women’s share of computer science degrees had dropped to…one out of every five degrees awarded.”
In response, IIT held a Middle School Computer Discovery Camp for Girls in July in the Idea Shop on Main Campus. Sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and by the new K-12 STEM+ Pre-Collegiate Program and Youth Leadership Program, the Camp was funded through a leadership gift by alumna Andrea Berry (CS ’84) through the Garfield and Phyllis Jenkins STEM+ Outreach Fund (see separate story).
Vida Winans, senior instructor of computer science, led participants in a variety of hands-on activities to develop their interest and skills. “The girls used Lego Mindstorms to ‘build’ robots — helping to strengthen spatial skills &mash; and then programmed their robots to learn some basic programming skills,” Winans explained. “They used the StarLogo (MIT) program to learn to program games. They also were able to blog through most of the camp.
“This camp brought together high-potential girls who were excited to learn about technology,” said Winans. “It is especially difficult for girls to find other girls who are ‘techies’; it’s important to identify these girls to give them support and encouragement.”