Summer camp encourages girls to pursue careers in computer science

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Looking over a room filled with 15 bright Arkansas girls who are raptly focused on designing websites with the computer coding skills they learned during an all-girls coding camp is a beautiful sight to Thomas Wallace.

As a senior instructor of information science at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Wallace is saddened by the lower number of female students in his classes.

“We have a hard time attracting women in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) field,” Wallace said. “This camp is a great opportunity to expose girls to the STEM disciplines.”

In an effort to interest more girls in pursuing STEM majors in college, the UA Little Rock George W. Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology began an all-girls coding camp in 2016 for junior high school students.

In the camp’s second year, students learned about three coding languages (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript), web development and web design skills, as well as copyright laws and how to use third-party licensed materials during the July 23-28 camp.

Camper Karina Batra, a student at Fulbright Junior High School in Bentonville, used her new knowledge to create a website with craft projects for people of all skill levels.

With her parents and older brother working in computer-related fields, Batra has plans to major in computer science and work at a technology company after college. Attending the coding camp at UA Little Rock helped Batra build upon the skills she is already developing by learning python at home.

“I’ve had a passion for coding for a while now,” Batra said. “All of my family is in computer-related careers. I wanted to see how women are promoted in the field of computer science.”

Elizabeth Polk, a camp assistant and 2017 computer science graduate of UA Little Rock, said she is encouraged to see girls interested in computer science.

“I was the only girl in many of my classes,” Polk said. “Girls are more cautious when going into computer science fields. We are trying to show girls that they can do this.”

Participants included:

  •      Marlissa Archie, seventh-grader at Hot Springs Middle School
  •      Taylor Ballard, eighth-grader from Little Rock
  •      Karina Batra, seventh-grader at Fulbright Junior High School
  •      Naomi Choy, seventh-grader at Ruth Doyle Middle School
  •      DeAndra Grice, seventh-grader from Maumelle
  •      Amanda He, seventh-grader at Lisa Academy West
  •      Alison Jang, eighth-grader at Washington Junior High School
  •      Alyssa Joseph, eighth-grader at North Little Rock Middle School
  •      Briana Lewis, eighth-grader at Bethel Middle School
  •      Avery Nelson, eighth-grader at Greenbrier Junior High School
  •      Sydney Minor, eighth-grader at Greenbrier Junior High School
  •      Riley Montague, seventh-grader at Pulaski Academy
  •      Luna Mae Solleder, seventh-grader at Hot Springs Middle School
  •      Eureka Smith, seventh-grader at Hot Springs Middle School

The camp, which is free to participants thanks to generous donations, was sponsored by Acxiom, Alliance Rubber Company, AT&T, Entergy, Emerging Analytics Center, Mainstream Technologies, Southwest Power Pool, UA Little Rock Department of Information Science, and Windstream.

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