Dr. Claire McCullough challenged a group of students in Girls Incorporated of Chattanooga to consider what life would be like without cell phones, television, x-ray machines, microwave ovens, computers, jumbo jets and video games. The professor was really asking what life would be like without the influence of Engineering or Computer Science.
The UTC College of Engineering and Computer Science partnered with Girls Incorporated of Chattanooga and Unum’s technology department to host a two-day computer programming workshop. Students ages 6-11 enrolled in Girls Inc.’s Operation Smart® summer camp. The workshop was designed to expose girls to the exciting world of technology and show them job opportunities in the field.
Women constitute far more than half of the US population, yet they are represented in only 24 percent of the informational technology workforce. Just 16 percent hold executive positions in the field of technology at Fortune 500 companies. Additionally, according to the Computing Research Association, less than 20 percent of undergraduates enrolled in college computer science programs are female.
McCullough, professor of electrical engineering, said the University provided technical resources for the Girls Inc. students. She said this workshop provided a way to open the College of Engineering and Computer Science to young women, encouraging them to consider Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education.
McCullough and Beth Lyon of Unum’s Technology Department introduced the students to an educational computer program call Scratch. Developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Scratch is designed to provide children with hands-on experience in computer programming design.
“We are incredibly excited about working with Girls Inc. to expose the girls to the field of technology through the workshop we designed,” said Beth Lyon, Unum’s IT systems manager. “It is a rewarding volunteer opportunity for us to lay the groundwork that generates interest in computer science and spreads the enthusiasm for the work we do at Unum.”
Upon completion of the workshop, campers gained a better understanding of the field of computer science. Most importantly they learned that it takes various skill sets to develop computer programming – from math and critical thinking to using one’s creativity and working as a team.
In addition to a week-long focus on technology, Operation Smart® summer camp also introduced the girls to engineering, astronomy and environmental science through hands-on activities, field trips and female professionals in each of these fields.