Girls Only!

Girls Only!

Girls Gather for Computer Science (G2CS) is a National Science Foundation grant-funded summer camp at Pacific University, giving teen girls high tech experiences in computer science.

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Taking apart cell phones, computer hard drives and printers may not look like the usual summer camp activity for junior high school girls.

About 30 girls from around the Portland area tackled these projects with gusto, though, as part of the second Girls Gather for Computer Science (G2CS) camp this summer at Pacific University.

“Remember the safety procedures,” instructor Shelley Frey told the girls on their second day of camp. The girls, wearing brightly colored safety goggles, filled a lab at Pacific’s at the Strain Science Center, where they worked in teams to dismantle the tech gear. They looked at computer screen photos of the gadgets as they worked, while also taking their own photos and videos to create a presentation later.

Assisting the campers were Frey, a middle school technology teacher, as well as Ashleigh Pilkerton ’14, a Pacific bioinformatics and biology major, and Stevie Viaene, a retired high school technology teacher. Shereen Khoja, associate professor of mathematics and computer science, and Juliet Brosing, professor of physics, direct the camp.

"It's important for girls to learn about computer science, because they represent half of the population and need to be represented in the workforce that designs the technology that is consumed by both males and females," Khoja said.

The camp is funded by a $554,248 grant from the National Science Foundation, which will pay for three summer sessions for girls, along with a 10-year follow-up to study the academic and career impact of exposing girls to computer science at an early age. Student participation is free for the four-week camp.

Partners include the Pacific University Computer Science Department, Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), Intel, Flying Rhinoceros educational media, Vernier Sofware & Technology, leaders from area tribal groups and the local Latino community, and local school districts. The Berglund Center for Internet Studies provides much of the staffing and also maintains the server that will host the study information as well as a social media network for the girls.

The camp uses female instructors to engage the girls with an original curriculum emphasizing computational thinking with an active learning environment.

Hands-on activities include creating simple web pages, understanding computer searching and computer programming. The participants also take field trips to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, University of Washington’s Computer Science Department, Microsoft headquarters and Amazon.com.

“It’s all really fun,” said Claire Edington, 13, who will begin eighth grade in Hillsboro this fall.

“I love technology but I’m not really good with computers,” added Lucy Plews, a 13-year-old eighth-grader from Banks. “I thought this would be a good opportunity to learn to use some more.”