Sixteen rising eighth- and ninth-grade girls just spent a week at UA Little Rock learning coding skills that will come in handy for future STEM careers.
The girls coding camp, made possible with a $10,000 sponsorship from Windstream, is a one-week annual residential camp that aims to motivate academically prepared females to enter the fields of computer science, information science or web design. The program is free to participants.
During the camp, which ended July 26, girls stayed in UA Little Rock’s on-campus housing so they also got a taste of what it’s like to be on a college campus. During the day, they worked with Thomas Wallace, senior instructor of information science and UA Little Rock’s coordinator of the Web Design and Development program and information technology minor.
The girls also took a field trip to Windstream where they learned how to provision a phone system, participated in binary coding exercises, and toured a network lab.
“Working directly with these girls, watching them work together to learn how to provision phones on Windstream’s network is truly an inspirational experience,” said Sara Lary, manager of the Law Enforcement Support Center. “Seeing their excitement when the equipment works and watching them call their parents to share their experience and enthusiasm is proof that we are doing good work and making a difference. Yesterday one of our campers said ‘This is awesome, I want to do this! What do I need to do so I can do something like this with Windstream?’ We need to keep that enthusiasm going for generations and continue to work to provide more opportunities for young girls to succeed at an early age.”
Lary’s daughter is a former participant of the camp.
“I got to witness firsthand how her experience attending this camp sparked a level of confidence, interest and motivation in her education and career path that she didn’t have previously,” Lary recalled. “Once she was given the opportunity to learn cool, relevant things with technology in a healthy environment, she became excited about her future. We can do this for all young girls. By fostering an interest in STEM (now STEAM) topics at a young age and working on the negative connotations and barriers that girls face today, educators, parents, and mentors can work together to help girls maintain confidence and curiosity in STEAM.”
This year’s participants were selected from schools statewide based on essay, grades, test scores, and recommendations. Schools represented include Forest Heights Stem Academy, Lisa Academy West, Pinnacle View Middle School, Pulaski Academy, and Quest Academy, all in Little Rock; Fulbright Junior High School in Centerton; Ruth Doyle Middle School in Conway; and St. Joseph School in Russellville.
Photo, top right: Girls gathered at UA Little Rock to participate in a week-long coding camp, sponsored by Windstream. Photos left and above right: Girls participate in technology-based challenge activities at Windstream’s networking lab on July 25, 2019. Photos by Benjamin Krain