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Encouraging Talented High School Girls toward a Career in Computing through a Broader Understanding of the Field

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Gender Perceptions and Girls in K-12 Engineering and Computer Science

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.480.1 - 24.480.15



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Paper Authors


Shreya Kumar Michigan Technological University

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Shreya Kumar is a Ph.D. student in computer science at Michigan Technological University. She has worked in industry as a technical business analyst for British Telecom and Tech Mahindra Ltd. She is pursuing her Ph.D. in communication-related research in the context of the software project.

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Linda M. Ott Michigan Technological University

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Dr. Linda M. Ott received her Ph.D. in computer science from Purdue University in 1978. She joined Michigan Tech's faculty shortly after completing her doctorate and chaired the department of computer science from 1996 to 2010. Her research interests are in software engineering, including software processes, software measurement, and software engineering education. She also has interests in ethical and social aspects of computing and has been active in efforts to increase the number of women in computing for many years. She has been a co-PI on nearly $1.5 million in grants from industry and the National Science Foundation. Dr. Ott is a 2010 recipient of the ACM SIGSOFT Retrospective Paper Award for the paper "The Program Dependence Graph in a Software Development Environment," co-authored with Dr. Karl Ottenstein. The paper was published in SDE 1, Proceedings of the First ACM SIGSOFT/SIGPLAN Symposium on Practical Software Development Environments, April 23-25, 1984. In addition to teaching at Michigan Tech, Dr. Ott taught advanced software engineering at Siberian State Aerospace University in Krasnoyarsk, Russia as a Fulbright scholar. She also taught Ethical and Social Aspects of Computing at Beijing Normal University, Zhuhai in Zhuhai, China. Dr. Ott is currently Michigan Tech's lead person in the efforts to increase the number of female undergraduates in computing as a member of NCWIT's Pacesetters program.

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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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