'It's Your World! Develop It! Powered by AT&T'
AT&T, WNY STEM Hub, SUNY Buffalo State and the Girls Scouts of Western New York have partnered to create the region's first computer coding program exclusively for girls, "It's Your World! Develop It! Powered by AT&T," to encourage more women to enter the field of technology, specifically coding, an industry that is alarmingly male-dominant.
The program will provide 40 girls from local urban middle and high schools an opportunity to gain coding skills and experiences over the next five months and engage them in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) career paths. The inaugural class will start in July with a coding day camp for girls weekdays from July 18-29, also a regional first, at Buffalo State's new $36 million technology building, which is home to the college's computer information systems department. Participants will learn computer coding basics and will continue throughout the rest of 2016, taking part in education programing after school and on weekends.
"It's Your World! Develop It! Powered by AT&T" will connect girls with team-based coding projects designed to make a difference in their schools and their community, while providing them hands-on experience developing their own technology. Girls will be guided by mentors of local tech professionals, educators and advocates to identify and design coding solutions to create such products as apps, digital storyboards, animated movies, learning games or basic websites. Their projects will culminate during a "Girls Success Code" recognition event to be held during National Computer Science Education Week in December.
To eliminate economic barriers, the registration fee is only $25, which includes a one-year registration to be a Girl Scout. Additionally, if needed, participants will receive a free refurbished laptop computer to use as an educational tool throughout the program. To register, girls and their parents must visit http://www.gswny.org and click on the "It's Your World! Develop It! Powered by AT&T" link under upcoming events on the homepage.
Coding is quickly becoming the new literacy and is the driver of all new digital technology. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Department of Labor, much of the growth in the domestic and global economy will come from STEM-related jobs - a highly lucrative and competitive field. It is estimated that, by 2020, there will be 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs with more than half made up of computer and coding careers, underscoring the importance of providing youth the tools and skills necessary to compete in this innovation economy. The urgency for more computer science employees is accentuated by the low percentage of females who are currently employed at major technology firms (29 percent) and women pursuing bachelors' degrees for computer science (just 18 percent).
"We realized the need for a girl coding education program in the region when it became evident that our tactic of introducing girls to computer science professionals and careers in STEM was not having the desired success in capturing their attention, and that we needed to do something innovative to engage local girls," WNY STEM Hub President Michelle Kavanaugh said. "It is undeniable that there is an increasing need for more woman in the robust coding sector and programs like this one, which are common in major tech hubs around the nation. Innovative ways are needed to encourage girls to follow this career path and we are thankful for all the organizations that have collaborated to make it a reality."
AT&T's support for this program is part of the company's legacy of supporting educational programs focused on STEM disciplines in New York through AT&T Aspire, the company's signature $350 million philanthropic initiative that drives innovation in education by bringing diverse resources to bear on the issue, including funding, technology, employee volunteerism and mentoring. Aspire is one of the nation's largest corporate commitments focused on school success and workforce readiness by creating new learning environments and educational delivery systems to help students succeed and prepare them to take on 21st century careers.
"AT&T is proud to collaborate with these dynamic organizations to develop and support this innovative experience for girls as it further enhances our commitment to providing resources for STEM-related educational programming throughout Western New York and builds upon our vigorous efforts to bridge the gender gap in the technology industry," said Marissa Shorenstein, New York president, AT&T. "Our economy continues to transform at a robust pace - requiring a workforce with a focus on technological education and literacy - and computer science programs like this one are vital to ensure that the students of today, despite gender, are equipped to compete in the global innovation economy of tomorrow."
The Girl Scouts of USA report, Generation STEM, highlighted the fact girls in urban settings often lack the family and community support systems to help them succeed in nontraditional female fields, such as computer science, and pointed out girls are highly motivated to make a difference in their world.
"A critical element in our programming is to provide girls with viable platforms to explore and take the lead in STEM career fields," said Judith Cranston, CEO of Girl Scouts of Western New York. "Collaboration is the key to help level the playing field for girls to thrive in STEM professions, and we are proud to partner with WNY STEM, AT&T, Buffalo State and others on the girls coding program."
SUNY Buffalo State is a regional leader introducing computer science to more students. For the past four years, its CIS department has offered free summer workshops for local math and science teachers through the CS4HS (computer science for high school) program, encouraging the teachers to incorporate computational concepts into the classroom in fun and relevant ways. CIS annually hosts a showcase where middle and high school students participate in a campus computer technology competition where they receive feedback from faculty and undergraduate students.
Most recently, a newly formed "Women in Computing Club" offered the "Hour of Code for Girls," part of a national initiative sponsored by the nonprofit Code.org. Girls came to campus last December from high schools throughout Western New York for an evening of projects ranging from web design to java script.
"I am proud of the innovative ways our faculty reaches out to middle and high school teachers and their students to ensure that young people know about the many opportunities available to them in the STEM fields. We are excited to build upon our extensive STEM outreach through this initiative," Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner said. "As a former Girl Scout, I am thrilled to partner with an organization known for encouraging future female leaders. Together, we have the chance to offer a cutting-edge program for girls in our community, which promises to seed a new generation of creative leaders within computer science."
A number of additional community resources and organizations will be engaged by the WNY STEM Hub to enhance the program. Computers For Children will assist with delivery of coding instruction and provide repurposed computers. Women coders from Girl Develop It, Buffalo Chapter, and local firms will serve as role models and supplemental instructors. Retired teachers from the Science Teachers Association will provide mentors, and community organizations and schools will provide project challenges from which the girls can choose.
Further information can be found at: wnystem.org.