A new camp looks to encourage more women to enter the field of technology, which advocates of more opportunities for girls say has been routinely stereotyped as an area for men.
Estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that around 1.4 million computer science positions will be available in 2020, but just 400,000 people will hold the skills necessary to obtain them. At the same time, the national nonprofit organization Girls Who Code says that only about 3% of girls are on track to fill those jobs. The organization is looking to close this gap by offering coding instruction to over 10,000 high school girls in camps and after-school programs across the nation since it was founded in 2012.
The Girls Who Code summer immersion program offers girls access to an immersive seven-week long summer course. Free for all students to attend, the new camp location in Washington, DC drew 120 participants this year of all different skill levels, with some saying they would like to go on to study computer science, while others who said they were looking to learn something new. Camp locations can be found in 11 additional cities targeting girls in 11th and 12th grades.
Each week of the seven-week program features a new subject for participants to learn, from how to design and build websites and apps to robotics, art, and storytelling.
Staff salaries and field trips are paid for by corporate sponsors, which include BSA and Lockheed Martin. Meanwhile, Georgetown University donates space in its continuing education building for the camp to take place in.
"I am firmly of the view that if we have more girls coding, and more girls working in software development, that our coding will be more innovative, more creative and more secure," said Victoria Espinel, BSA's CEO. "By the time these girls have gone through the seven weeks, they have learned how to build websites, they've created apps, they've made robots dance."
This year, the course included field trips to Capitol Hill and cybersecurity firm Symantec Corp., as well as female speakers from Microsoft, IBM, and NASA.
"Coding was never something that was a train of thought for me because I always wanted to be a psychologist," said Willitta Cooper, a rising junior from Montgomery County. "But now I see how I can use coding in that by creating programs for kids."
The marketing and communications director at Girls Who Code, Christina Honeysett, said the technology and program is used by participants to solve problems they see within their own communities. She added that by the end of the year, 40,000 girls will have been taught by the nonprofit across all 50 states, reports Haweya Fadal for NBC News.
The end of the course allows participants the opportunity to work together in small groups, creating websites, apps, and their own programs. Groups are given about a week to complete their projects with the help of teachers and teachers aides, the majority of whom are female college students studying computer science.