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Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences

Girls Create with Technology Brings Girls Together in Computer Science and STEM

By Nadia Beidas

     On March 21, there will be a Maker Session for girls from 6th through 10th grades entitled Smart Home as a part of Girls Create with Technology. They will have the opportunity to utilize programming and the Gravity IoT [Internet of Things] Starter Kit in order to create smart home devices. The Gravity IoT [Internet of Things] Starter Kit contains seven Internet of Things modules that are capable of interacting from a smart device as well as wireless monitoring.

     There will also be an afternoon session on the same day for Girl Scouts to earn their robotics badge, according to Dr. Cindy Howard, co-chair and associate professor of the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences.

     Another upcoming Maker Session is called Fun with Finches where girls have their finch robots move, light up and other features via the Python programming language. For more information about the Maker Sessions, visit http://cs.lewisu.edu/gct/schedule.html.

     On June 22 through June 25 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. there will be a summer camp for Girls Create with Technology, Howard said. The girls will learn Raspberry Pi and build a robot.

Girls learn how to build robots of their own creation during the summer camp session of Girls Create with Technology.

     “My favorite thing is what we do in camp, build robots,” Howard said. She added the girls use craft materials to build the robots. Howard said the materials, such as cardboard boxes and bottles, are gathered year round by Christine Morrow, Administrative Assistant for the College of Aviation, Science and Technology.

     The girls also write code for the robots to move or have light or sound, Howard said. The girls use either the programming languages Python or Snap! Snap! is a visual programming language allowing the programmer to drag and drop blocks of code. About a day and a half of the camp is spent on building the robots, Howard said.

Girls also write code for their robots to light up.

     “Technology and computer science is a creative field,” Howard said, adding this is an important aspect for girls to see and experience in Girls Create with Technology. “Put it on their radar. This is something they can do,” Howard said. She said the age group of 6th to 10th grades are a good time for the girls to have exposure to these fields, especially at a time in their lives when they are thinking of their futures.

     Howard also emphasized the importance of encouraging girls and women to be a part of STEM fields. “Having different people with different perspectives is so important,” Howard said. “A more diverse group comes up with better ideas,” she added.

The summer camp session of Girls Create with technology offers girls an opportunity to learn several skills, including coding, security and encryption, taking computers apart and putting them back together, Raspberry Pi and 3D printing.

     Girls and women also face challenges in pursuing STEM fields. “I think right now the biggest challenge is feeling comfortable when there aren’t a lot of women,” Howard said.

     She added it can be hard for girls to have few or no other female classmates in a classroom setting, but the girls should reach out and find other women in the field. Women can join ACM-W [The Association for Computing Machinery’s Council on Women in Computing], and attend the Grace Hopper Celebration conference, Howard said.

     Students and faculty can get involved in Girls Create with Technology, and should contact Dr. Howard at howardcy@lewisu.edu for further information. Every Girls Create with Technology session has three or four student mentors. Students are eligible to receive a stipend for their assistance.

     Girls Create with Technology began in 2013 supported by a contribution from AT&T, Howard said. Currently, Girls Create with Technology is supported via contributions from Driskill Foundation, Ecolab, Caterpillar Foundation, PPG Foundation, Romeoville Walmart and ARCO Murray Construction.

     Through Girls Create with Technology, the girls learn several important skills, including security and encryption, coding, taking apart and building computers, 3D printing and Raspberry Pi, Howard said.

     “I would hope they would find it interesting that they can build and create things with technology,” Howard said. She added that she finds it rewarding to see the girls get excited about their projects.

Dr. Cindy Howard, co-chair and associate professor of the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences, leads the summer camp of Girls Create with Technology with assistance from Lewis students.

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