June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
24.480.1 - 24.480.15
Encouraging Talented High School Girls towards a Career in CS through a Broader Understanding of the FieldWe describe our experiences with a weeklong, industry-sponsored summer course aimed atacademically strong high school women who have shown an interest in computing. This is a group withmany career options since their talents and interests are quite broad. We see the program we developedas a potential model to be used to further engage such highly talented young women in computing andto pique their interest in computing careers.For the program, we selected ninth through eleventh grade women who would be an excellent additionto any industry and are approaching a decision making point in their academic lives. Based on theliterature and our previous experiences, we concluded these young women would benefit from seeingthe many different types of career options in computing, and in particular seeing successful,professional women enjoying their careers. Since these young women were particularly goodcommunicators, we wanted them to learn the importance of communication skills in computing careers.We also felt it was important for these students to see that computing is used in nearly all types ofendeavors to solve numerous types of problems and that computing professionals really do impact theworld. Finally, we felt it was important to have the students complete a team project, somethingtangible, that they could take home and show to family and friends and experience the associated senseof accomplishment. Ultimately, our primary goal for this course was to inspire these students toseriously consider computing as a career possibility.The course was based on a combination of project work developing mobile apps using MIT AppInventor (to help engage students by having them make apps that they could envision themselves andtheir friends using), a series of research presentations each followed by a lab activity (to promote asense of the breadth of the computing field and its potential for service), interactions with successfulfemale role models from different segments of the industry (to share stories of career paths and paint arealistic picture of life as a woman in computing), a session for helping the elderly use computers, anindustry visit (to see a formal working environment) and a session with local industry professionals towhom the students presented their mobile apps (to emphasize the relevance of communication skills).Based on our formal evaluation, feedback from the students and our observations, these young womenended the week with a much more mature and accurate understanding of what computer science is andthe wide range of career opportunities available in the field. Nearly all indicated they are now seriouslyconsidering a career in computing. We hypothesize that many bright young women with an interest incomputing similar to the ones in our program, choose other career paths based on an incomplete pictureof the breadth of the field and range of career opportunities. An exposure to programming may not besufficient to attract the brightest talent to our discipline.
Kumar, S., & Ott, L. M. (2014, June), Encouraging Talented High School Girls toward a Career in Computing through a Broader Understanding of the Field Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20371
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