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Bringing Chic to Geek

Thursday, May. 29, 2014

girls illustration for computer camp workshop

Utah State University hosts a computer camp June 9-13 to help girls cross the digital divide.

It’s not a band or a movie, but App Girls are coming to Cache Valley this spring, June 9-13.

They are a band of middle school girls who will be on the move with smartphones in hand as part of a week-long spring camp at Utah State University. Participants will develop their own smartphone applications — and, hopefully, new-found aplomb along the way.

Camp openings are still available for girls in grades 6-8 but filling quickly.

A computer science camp for girls may sound geeky and maybe even daunting to the uninitiated, but Vicki Allan, professor of computer science at USU, promises no hard coding, no hard math and no boys (no hard feelings, guys). Just a free and open environment for girls to discover their inner digital side.

Like spring and summer camps are meant to be, this camp will be fun and engaging. It’s a starting point; a chance for young women to dip their toes in the world of computer science. Ironically, while computers permeate nearly every aspect of daily life, computer science, as a profession, is largely overlooked by women.

Allan hopes camps like this will help to change that, to show girls all the great options a career in computer science offers. For those who want to combine career and family, it is one of the rare occupations where women, in many instances, can elect to remain home and choose their own hours, she said.

“It is an amazingly flexible field for young women,” Allan said. “Jobs are dynamic and exciting. Salaries are good. Job opportunities are plentiful.”

The USU camp will be highly interactive with plenty of activities to gently introduce participants to the world of problem solving and programming. It really promises to be a compelling week for these young women because they will experience computing in a different way — from that of users to actual developers, she said.

Imagine, for example, creating an app for a walking tour of the USU campus? That is one of eight different apps the girls will be working on, Allan said.

And they won’t be left to their own devices, either. Near-peer mentors, young women high-school age, will be at their sides every step of the way with one mentor for every three students, including Andrea Castillo, a senior at Logan High School who also happens to be camp director. She is a recent Aspirations Award Winner for Utah. The award is part of the AspireIT program, a technology outreach program for girls at middle school level supported by Intel, Northrop Grumman and Google.

“Andrea is an energetic, articulate and bright individual,” Allan said. “She has been involved in a variety of leadership positions, including leading a team in building a website and serving as a role model, mentor and advisor for individuals pursuing the Aspirations Award.”

Allan and USU colleague Linda DuHadway are volunteering their time to team up with Castillo to help her design the curriculum and to host the camp at USU. The camp is daily from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. throughout the week. Lunch will be provided. Tuition is $85 per student. Need-based scholarships are still available.

App Girls is one of 46 programs nationwide to receive grant funding from the second grant cycle of the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT). So far this year, NCWIT has granted $123,500 to 46 programs, expecting to provide more than 50,000 instruction-hours in computing and technology to more than 1,300 middle school girls in Utah and 18 other states.

For more information, see the website or contact Allan at 435-797-2022;

Related links:

USU Computer Science Department

USU College of Engineering

Contact: Dr. Vicki Allan, 435-797-2022;

Writer: John DeVilbiss, 4350797-1358;

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