Thursday, June 18, 2009

UIS hosts Girl Tech technology camp for middle schoolers

By Courtney Westlake

UIS' Computer Science program is hosting Girl Tech 2009, a technology camp for middle-school girls entering 7th, 8th or 9th grade in the fall on Thursday, June 18 and Friday, June 19.

"We're hoping to get them excited about technology to the point that they want to know more, stay with it and develop a passion for what technology is all about and the many facets of it," said Mary Sheila Tracy, instructor in the computer science department.

Studies show that number of women in higher education in computer science is "falling drastically, and what we need to do is bring more women into field," Tracy said. Girl Tech is geared toward girls in middle school because interest seems to start decreasing around that age.

The camp offered sessions on programming, robotics, computer networking, iMovie, Photoshop and computer hardware. A partial list of sessions includes Cartoons Galore!, Persona Magazine, Wireless Treasure Hunt and Robotics at the Robot Zoo.

"There are six different workshops over the two days, and the girls visit each one," Tracy said. "We have a workshop on learning to program - the fundamentals of using a programming language in a way that is most fun. There is another session on programming using Legos Mindstorm robots to learn to program, as well as a workshop on what it is to use wireless technology on a treasure hunt throughout our building, finding access points."

"We have a session where we're giving the girls flip video cameras to shoot their own movies and then using iMovie to edit. And we're doing session called 'What's in the Box?' where the girls take a computer apart. What better way to find out what's actually in the box inside their computer than taking it apart and looking at each individual piece?," Tracy said.

Instructors of the sessions are female faculty members in the Computer Science Department and Visual Arts Department, as well as staff members in Information Technology Services.

About 36 girls participated in Girl Tech 2009, which is the first year the technology camp has been held.

"We've had just about everyone show up, so it's nice that the girls are that enthused," Tracy said. "We have an extraordinarily bright, enthusiastic group here, and it's just so much fun for all of the instructors and volunteers here today."

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