December 14th, 2017

Tech Girl camp: no boys allowed

By Martin, Tijana on August 18, 2017.

Ezra Roth, 10, uses a program to model for 3D printing during the Destination Exploration's Tech Girl camp at the University of Lethbridge on Wednesday. Herald photo by Tijana Martin @TMartinHerald

Tijana Martin

Lethbridge Herald

This week, the University of Lethbridge’s Destination Exploration program hosted its first Tech Girl Camp.

The program aims to encourage young girls to consider pursuing a career in computer science.

The idea was sparked during a conversation between camp leaders Cassandra Allenby and Breanalee Beer.

“She works in the industry, so she knows first hand that it can be extremely intimidating as a woman to walk into the classroom and have all these men around you,” said Beer.

Not only can a career in technology be intimidating for women, she said, but often women may feel like the odd person out.

“We’re not statistically a significant part of technology.”

According to Statistics Canada, only 27 per cent of those pursuing a computer science degree were women.

The camp reached capacity and 15 girls between the ages of eight and 11 have been spending the week learning how to build, design, create and program. Students have been given the opportunity to try coding, robotics and 3D printing.

Jana Kapoch, 10, has attended all the Destination Exploration camps so far, but this is the first time she has attended one that’s girls-only.

“I like it because the boys, they’re always telling us that they’re better than us most of the time,” said Kapoch. “It’s nice to be with other girls and you can like talk to more people and you can make more friends,” she said.

The girls-only program has only increased her confidence and next time, if a boy tells her she can’t, she knows just what to say – “I could show you that I can do something better,” she said.

Courtney Noulton, 10, is another participant, but she is no stranger to the tech camp.

However, this experience has been much different for her.

Last time she was enrolled, she was shocked to learn she was the only girl.

“I walked in and they said ‘you’re the only girl’ and I felt a bit weird and it was just different,” said Noulton.

“It was a bit weird to be with all guys, but now it’s a bit nicer to be with girls,” she said. “I can make a lot more friends with girls; in the boys camp I only made one friend.”

“The atmosphere that we have here in the classroom is very supportive of specifically women,” said Beer.

“We talk about how women actually have some skills that are extremely beneficial to this career,” she added. “We talked about how you’re going to have some failure in your career and that computer science will have a lot of trial and error.”

Beer believes this program will allow the girls to get a head start in life.

“The girls are going to have a collection of skills going on from now into their lives, whether that be in high school if they want to join more tech teams, also in university they’re going to be on the next page already.

“They’re also just going to have a basic understanding of what happens inside a computer, it’s not just magic. They understand that it has to follow a code and computers aren’t necessary smart -you have to tell them what to do and you have to tell them in a computer language. It’s going to be very useful for them.”

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