Year two of Pacific University's Girls Gather for Computer Science camp is a rousing success
Campers will receive $1,000 scholarship from the University if they attend the school
Thirty Washington County girls ages 12-14 gathered with their families at Pacific University on July 13 for the final day of a free four-week educational technology day camp, and one thing was clear: computer science is fun.
The camp, Girls Gather for Computer Science, was free for the participants and produced by Pacific University faculty and staff thanks to a National Science Foundation grant of $554,000 and additional support from Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB).
All expenses, including equipment, meals, transportation and lodging for an overnight field trip were provided at no cost to the participants' families.
With the nation's rapidly growing need for more workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), Girls Gather for Computer Science accomplished what it set out to do: show middle school girls that a career in science or technology can be as fun as it is financially rewarding.
The girls, hailing from Forest Grove, Cornelius, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Banks, North Plains and Portland, comprised the second of three cohorts that will complete the innovative summer camp, with the final camp scheduled for next summer.
The girls spent a week each learning about computer hardware, other computer science topics, programming with the Alice application and robotics under the direction of camp co-directors Shereen Khoja and Juliet Brosing, and instructors Stevie Viaene, Gayathridevi Iyer and Pamela Harrison.
At the closing reception, the campers enthusiastically displayed what they had been working on and learning about the previous four weeks: animated video games, robots and the inner workings of computers and other electronic equipment.
Khoja, an associate professor of computer science at Pacific, has spearheaded the NSF initiative that includes tracking the campers academic and career pursuits for 10 years following their completion of the camp.
She narrated a slideshow that captured the essence of the four-week program: teenage girls from all backgrounds, befriending one another, having fun and working together toward a common goal under the guidance and mentorship of highly successful female scientists, teachers and engineers.
In addition to both instructional and teambuilding activities at Pacific's Forest Grove Campus, the camp featured local field trips to Intel, WebMD's local field office, Vernier Software and partner organization OPB, where the girls received insight from reporter Geoff Norcross and others on how media organizations produce news broadcasts.
Perhaps the crown jewel of the off-campus excursions was an overnight trip to Seattle, where the campers took field trips to Microsoft, Amazon and the University of Washington computer science department. In addition to experiencing college life at Pacific, the campers' stay in the UW residence halls gave them an added dimension of the college experience.
An experience Pacific University president Lesley Hallick hopes the campers will take part in as Boxers.
"You are all honorary students here at Pacific," Hallick told the campers at the closing graduation ceremony.
"Your energy level is amazing and it is my hope that it carries you to continue to put forth the hard work required to pursue these type of careers. Those of us here with a science background want to do everything we can to help you carry that energy forward."
Hallick extended a unique offer to the campers' families: a $1,000 scholarship, renewable for four years, for those who completed the camp and go on to enroll at Pacific when the time comes.
"We're extremely proud of you, and offer this to each of you as a symbol of how much we think of your work and how optimistic we are for your futures."
The emphasis on STEM education - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - continues to grow at Pacific and throughout Washington County.
Now in the second year of a three-year cycle, Girls Gather for Computer Science (G2CS) has been a precursor to a similar camp at Hillsboro High School.
In winning the NSF grant two years ago, the University worked with OPB to develop an interactive website that includes all the camp curriculum and other schools and organizations to replicate.
"A key part of this initiative is to create resources that can be used by other educators to engage teenage girls in the technology fields," Khoja said.
"The fields of science, technology and engineering will face a significant shortage of qualified workers in the decades to come unless more females pursue careers in these industries. We hope educators and parents will take full advantage of the free materials at g2cs.org."
In addition to the Pacific staff and instructors, four female middle school teachers assisted in the camp's administration, in part, to learn how they can implement it at their respective schools.
"It's been an incredible response," said Laura Ruffner, who teaches at Neil Armstrong Middle School in Forest Grove. "One of the students didn't know what she wanted to do for a career when the camp started. Now, she's says she's going to be a college professor."
Other teachers at the camp included Shelley Frey of Beaverton's Mountain View Middle School, Deanna Blem of South Meadows Middle School in Hillsboro and Caitlin Nichols of Ontario Middle School in eastern Oregon.
Jeri Janowsky, a neuroscientist and executive director of the Saturday Academy educational facilitator, expressed concurred with fellow scientist Hallick in expressing pride and optimism for the girls' future.
"You now have the basic skills and tools to think about how to solve the really important problems of the world," she said.
The following seventh and eighth grade students received a camp completion certificate and an offer letter of a $1,000 renewable scholarship to Pacific if they enroll at the university.
Banks (2): Tigerlily Buchholz, Sophie Ranger.
Beaverton (4): Sydney Dawson, Emily Forsman, Cintiha Rosas-Gordillo, Laurel Shepard.
Cornelius (2): Annika Rusaw, Mayra Santaella Cuenca.
Forest Grove (7): Nina Flores-Parra, Amy Frie, Audrey Lommen, Lucy Plews, Esther Vega, Tiare Zijdemans, Mira Zimmerman.
Hillsboro (5): Karla Berg, Claire Edington, Colleen Foster, Victoria Vasquez, Claire Verstrate.
North Plains (1): Bonnie Romeo.
Portland (9): Mia Castaneda, Emily Fowler, Keira Johnson, Aysa Klocke, Alisha Menon, Zahra Rangwala, Karina Shah, Mahita Tovinkere, Cienna Wall.
Pacific University Girls Gather for Computer Science (G2CS) Staff: Shereen Khoja, Ph.D. (co-director), Juliet Brosing, Ph.D. (co-director), Theresa Floyd, Ashleigh Pilkerton, Maria Blando, Anika Tobiason, Julia Naumes, Josh Siva, Greg Boone, Camille Wainwright, Ph.D. (camp evaluator).
Posted by Joe Lang (firstname.lastname@example.org) on Aug 10, 2012 at 12:30 PM