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Young girls called to computer coding

Girls as computer geeks have become popular locally. In Sacramento, locals have the STEM program for young females as in "Sac State program for girls makes science fun." Just last October, Sacramento saw the sixth Expanding Your Horizons conference, which introduced girls to the idea of education and careers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines at Sacramento State. Names like computer nerd has given way to knowledgeable computer geek, a person called to fix computers or design software, robots, or science, medical device, and engineering projects.

Young girls called to computer coding.
Photo by Boris Streubel/Bongarts/Getty Images

This is the age when any kid can build his or her own computer from scratch with easy-to-follow instructions. See the site, "Kano launches a Kickstarter campaign for its $99 DIY, Raspberry Pi-powered PC building kit." So how do you get more girls interested in designing technology? Or what happens when coding in computing becomes as obsolete as pen shorthand when machine shorthand came into use along with computers and digital voice recorder transcribers or speech-to-text software also became popular?

Sacramento girls and women of all ages as well as males interested in computer technology also can listen to a popular woman in computing on radio or podcast discussing computers. Check out the sites, "Listen to The Kim Komando Show and Kim's Digital Minute - Station," or "Kimcast - The Kim Komando Show."

This year, there's another program at a different California university that's calling all girls to show them that computer coding is cool. Numerous California state colleges such as SDSC, UC San Diego, other local schools have launched GirlTECH San Diego. The San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California, San Diego, in a partnership with other local universities and industry support groups, is launching a non-profit collaborative community program aimed at encouraging and educating young women to learn and apply computing skills.

The program, called GirlTECH San Diego, is being launched this month by a partnership that so far includes the University of California - San Diego, San Diego State University, the University of San Diego, and Point Loma Nazarene University. Workshops will begin later this quarter

"Some young women lack interest because they don't realize that computing will empower them in any field they pursue, and those with an interest in computing don't necessarily pursue greater skill development because it's either not available at their school or because they lack self-confidence to participate in what is perceived as a male-oriented geek environment," said Diane Baxter, SDSC's education director, according to the January 14, 2014 news release, Calling all girls: Coding is cool. "GirlTECH San Diego creates opportunities for young women with an interest in computing to be empowered by that interest, and to share that interest with peers in a social, collaborative, positive, and directed learning environment."

The GirlTECH program was created in response to several recent statistics, including this published in a U.S. Department of Workforce Readiness publication:

  • 90% of high schools in the U.S. do not teach computer science. In many other countries, computer science courses are required.
  • Women hold less than 25% of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs.
  • Only 19% of students enrolled in Advanced Placement Computer Science courses are female.
  • Software jobs outnumber qualified applicants three-to-one. The gap is one million jobs over 10 years, and these are some of the highest paying jobs.
  • San Diego alone faces a shortage of more than 4,000 software experts (San Diego Software Industry Council, 2011)

Initially, GirlTECH San Diego will be focused on providing afterschool computing clubs for secondary school girls in educational community settings at various levels

"At the middle school level, those computing clubs will help develop shared interests and friendships," said Baxter in the news release. "At the high school level, and upon reaching a certain level of computing skills, students will have an opportunity to apply for paid positions as summer camp instructors, honing and strengthening their technology leadership and mentoring skills. At the undergraduate level, these computer science students will be in a strong position to take advantage of opportunities to teach and inspire others while boosting their resumes as they start their careers."

On the academic side, GirlTECH San Diego will extend the institution's teaching curriculum beyond the classroom and provide a stimulating environment for students seeking more hands-on involvement, while providing a future source of computer science employees to technology-oriented companies both locally and nationally.

What about young men who are interested in the computational sciences?

"They will not be turned away," said Baxter, according to the news release, "although the focus of the program and its activities are geared toward young women to help stimulate their interest in computer science as both a learning experience and a rewarding career."

Now the goal is how to prevent any of the males from taking over or dominating the experience for the females, when the young ladies begin to think for themselves and question everything in conversation or writing instead of inventing, creating, and illustrating only in their heads, since it has been long known that when women are alone in a class they can talk more and brainstorm, but when there are men (or a man) in the room, they tend to talk less and let the men do more of the talking.

Women and robotics

What will happen in a mixed atmosphere, since it has been known in the past that the technical departments of women's colleges usually meant the women had more conversations during brainstorming for creativity and innovation when men weren't there to 'silence' them as the so-called challengers of their logic. Time will tell the outcome. Another technical field attracting women and young girls is robotics. Notice how most photos in the media or advertising depict young people in front of computers or engineering design stations, usually featuring teenage or college-age boys? How many young girls design video games compared to how many young girls invent engineering, robotic, or computer devices to help people in hospitals or who major in biophysics engineering or biomedical engineering?

You may wish to check out the Robohub article, "25 women in robotics you need to know about (2013)." Perhaps more robots will be designed to help people in need of services that robots can do in health care, for example, rather than building robots mainly to battle each other in contests and competitions of one robot smashing another that schools often put on in 'fighting' championships.

Then again, combative robots in the military can save lives of people, but can robots do more to serve the needs of peace and survival in the field of health? Or do combat robots encourage more war when human lives are not used, but robots instead with interchangeable computer parts? These are the types of questions pondered by students in technology.

You'd have to ask women about their experiences in co-ed compared to all-women science, math, and technology classrooms and later in training-related jobs. Check out the article, "Why First-Year STEM Girls Attend Women's Colleges | Diane Propsne." The article discusses how women's colleges provide an empowering environment for their students to be actively involved in STEM. Also you may wish to check out the Forbes article, "Mythbusters: Who Says Women Can't Do Math And Science?"

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