By: Shreya Shankar, Global Tech Leader
"OMG -- this is so cool! I can now make links to other pages!" she said while I was teaching her HTML.
A faint smile played on my lips as I felt somewhat satisfied -- satisfied that I could help create a positive experience for middle school students through my passion for computer science. I mean, I kind of wish someone taught ME computer science when I was 11 or 12. I used Google Sites to create a personal site for myself (I won't attach any links to avoid any embarrassment for my 12-year-old self), but using Google Sites is far from coding from scratch. I'm happy to see that more middle school kids can experience hands-on programming.
Now that I've actually been able to share my passion for computer science with just thirty kids, I've become addicted to the feeling of satisfaction I obtain from helping other students learn. Organizations such as Global Tech Women and the National Center for Women in Technology have inspired me to make a difference not just in my community, but the world. The spark lit up in my head a few months ago as I put the pieces together: I love computer science, there aren't enough girls in computer science, and summer vacation was (thankfully) arriving pretty soon.
Just like that, I decided to start Camp Sci Girl (http://www.campscigirl.org) to close the gender gap in technology. Did you know that in 2012, only about 12% of computer science bachelor's degrees were awarded to women? We've got to change this. I've recruited over 50 mentors and participants around the world (thanks, girls) and am super excited to pilot the program in a few weeks. Make sure to check out Camp Sci Girl's twitter (http://www.twitter.com/campscigirl) to follow how we're trying to close the gender gap in technology.
What are Camp Sci Girl's goals? First, I'd like to highlight the fact that Camp Sci Girl will not be anything like your average online summer school. Camp Sci Girl is trying to steer away from the dreadful stereotype of mundane summer classes that kids can take to get ahead. What we're trying to do is expose middle school girls to computer science. About 50% of female K-12 students think that computer science careers are "odd" for girls to pursue. Camp Sci Girl aims to convince girls that computer science is most definitely a viable high school, college and career path. My team of mentors and I aren't trying to cram in as much knowledge into our students as we can; we want to provide our students with a fun, new learning experience.
By the end of Camp Sci Girl, I hope that our girls will realize that computer science isn't just for boys. I think my entire year would be made if a student of mine emailed me that she wanted to take programming in high school or attend a hackathon. Because really, with every additional girl that considers computer science as an option, the large gender gap in technology closes.
Someday, 50% of computer science bachelor's degrees will be awarded to women. But for that to happen, we've got to step up our game and help introduce younger girls to computer science.