CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – According to the National Center for Women and Information Technology, only 26 percent of professional computing occupations were held by women in 2016. In an effort to increase these numbers, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is hosting its Women In Technology “Girls Code Camp” from July 17 through August 4, as part of the STEM 2017 Summer Institute.
Middle school girls – grades sixth through eighth – had the opportunity to attend three different camps spanning three weeks at the Island University to explore the basics of computer programming, develop an understanding of design logic, computational thinking and scripting languages.
“Research shows that the largest drop-off in interest for computer science in young women is between the ages of 13 and 17,” said Seneca Holland, Camp Director and Instructor of Geographic Information Science (GISc) and Geospatial Surveying Engineering at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. “These camps present a unique opportunity to teach young women about careers in computer science – a field that is very underrepresented in terms of females in the work population.”
Holland and five Islander camp counselors, who are all female students in the GISc and Computer Sciences program, are working to educate and mentor 30 participants in each camp in three different areas of computer science. In their first week, campers studied Unmanned Ground Vehicles and were able to build and program robots using a self-developed code to navigate through a maze.
“I’m really excited to test the robots and work through obstacles with them,” said Mia Ortiz, an eighth-grade student in the Metropolitan School of Design at Roy Miller High School. “I didn’t know much about computers or coding when I first came to camp but I’ve learned so much, especially from the counselors. I can’t wait to come back next summer.”
During their second week, campers learned to develop a mobile application through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s App Inventor. Campers developed their own apps such as a Virtual Pet App, which requires the “owner” to feed a virtual “pet” to keep them happy. During the final week, campers will work to program Unmanned Aerial Vehicles while building a small programmable drone named a coDrone. At the end of the program, campers will showcase their talents by competing in a drone challenge.
“When you volunteer to mentor these young women, you’re working to motivate and encourage them to know they have the power to pursue a career in math and science,” said Anna Neuman, senior in the Island University’s GISc program. “What they learn here can be applied to more than just one field of study. It’s a rewarding experience to know that I am helping to build the future population of women in the field.”
Looking to the future, Holland hopes there will be enough interest in the current program to encourage the development of an advanced coding camp for girls.
“The goal is that this camp will continue to be offered, these young women will find a passion in a computer science related field and one day become a mentor themselves,” said Holland.
For more information on A&M-Corpus Christi’s “Girls Code Camp” and other STEM 2017 Summer Institute Programs visit, http://outreach.tamucc.edu/.