Aug 17, 2016 By Victoria Grdina
This summer, the Department of Computer Science and Engineering invited 10 Girl Scouts of Nebraska to attend a summer camp that would give them an introduction to the world of computers, code, and programming.
The Girl Scouts spent three days on the university’s campus staying overnight in the dorms, playing coding games, and building their own apps, which included themes such as kitten day cares, zombie trivia, and Bob Ross art. The girls came up with app ideas on their own in small groups, and were supervised and assisted in their creation by a computer science student mentor.
“I think it’s wonderful because it introduced the girls to coding and programming in a fun way and shows them how easy it is,” said Renae Ninneman, Program and Outreach Coordinator for Girl Scouts of Nebraska. “It really demystified the process and empowered them to know that they can code. They have the ability to say, ‘I created an app.’ I appreciate the confidence and empowerment it gave to the girls.”
This is the second year that CSE has hosted the camp. The Girl Scouts traveled in from troops all over the state; three of them visited from Alliance. Last year’s group of girls consisted mostly of high schoolers preparing to graduate, while most in this year’s slightly younger group were preparing to enter high school this fall.
Mickey Tran, who attended the camp last year, returned this year as a mentor. She’s now a Nebraska freshman double majoring in computer science and geography and planning to work with satellites. Tran said the camp offers girls the important opportunity to see if computing is for them—and not just for boys.
“I want children, especially girls, to understand that computer science isn’t a “boy” or masculine subject,” Tran said. “It'll help girls start to think about the different options they will be able to take when choosing a career path. The computational thinking they learn also allows the girls to have a different way of thinking they can bring back to their school and academics.”
This is especially important, as Ninneman said that despite the girls’ interest in computers and coding, many of them have not had the opportunity to take classes and learn the skills in school.
“Only maybe one or two of them had done anything coding-related before,” Ninneman said. “They came in, tried it, learned it, and they were successful. That takes confidence and courage and aligns perfectly with our mission.”
Ninneman said the girls learned enough at the camp to continue building their skill sets at home and learning more at their own pace. She also believes that those programming, coding, and computer science skills will be essential in the girls’ future careers and provide them with more rewarding job options in the future—and that benefits everyone.
“When it comes to any type of job, it’s important to have a woman at the table,” Ninneman said. “When you’re building an app or making a program, there are things women need or want that men may not think about. Having a woman’s perspective makes it more competitive and more innovative. It’s really important that we keep giving girls opportunities to try.”
Learn more at: http://www.girlscoutsnebraska.org