Students get grant to promote computer science to girls

cougar-quest-160PULLMAN, Wash. – Women who become computer scientists end up in high-paying, interesting jobs where they tackle challenges that make a difference in the world. So why are fewer girls studying computer science than 30 years ago?

“I think there is a need for more women in computer science because men and women think a little bit differently,’’ says Rae Marks, a Washington State University senior in computer science – who has a great job lined up after graduation. “We approach problems from different perspectives. It can lead to more insight into all sorts of technology problems that still need to be solved.’’

Broadening Participation in Computing Club members with WSU faculty advisor Shira Broschat.

Aiming to change some attitudes, the WSU Broadening Participation in Computing Club recently received a grant from the Symantec company and the National Center for Women & Information Technology to introduce girls to computer science. The student-led program will be part of WSU’s Cougar Quest summer program.

The U.S. Department of Labor anticipates approximately 1.2 million computing-related job openings by 2022, but demand far outpaces the supply of graduates.

The summer program, led by WSU students in computer science, will introduce younger girls to engaging, hands-on programming projects. Presentations will discuss research and career opportunities for women in computer science, as well as recommending classes and activities to help girls succeed in the field.

“We want to break down stereotypes, give students creative programming experience and inspire them,’’ says Jess Dahmen, one of the WSU students who will lead the summer program.

The WSU students will work with the Office of Assessment of Teaching and Learning to gauge the program’s success. Students hope to offer the program annually and provide support for girls who want to participate.