Award, grant help Franklin Regional grad run computer science camp for girls
Nicole Baldy of Murrysville came home from a University of Pittsburgh computer camp with a head full of ideas and a desire to pass the knowledge on to others.
Thanks to a grant provided by the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) — which also presented Baldy with their “AspireIT” award — 30 middle-school girls spent July 10-13 at Franklin Regional High School learning about several aspects of computer science, with a theme focused around cybersecurity at the “FEAT: Females Embrace Awesome Technology” camp.
“We learned a little bit about Python , a text-based language,” Baldy said. “We used Weebly , a website design service; we used App Inventor , a way to create apps for Android phones, and the last thing we did was video-game design using a block-based computing language called Scratch .”
Baldy, 18, graduated from Franklin Regional this year and plans to pursure a degree in computer science at the University of Akron. High school computer science teacher Maureen Garda said Baldy is the perfect person to run the program.
“She was a runner-up (for the “AspireIT”) award last year,” Garda said. “This year she won, and also scored very high in leadership skills. Because of that, she was given the opportunity to run this program.”
Sixth-grader Keira Sadoski of Murrysville said she liked the idea of female students doing computer engineering.
“There aren't many girls doing it,” said Sadoski, 11. “It sounded like a lot of of fun. My favorite things were doing the coding for the games, making our website and working with Python.”
Sadoski is correct that not many women are choosing computer science: according to NCWIT, only 18 percent of students receiving a computer science bachelor's degree in 2015 were female. And while the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that of 1.1 million projected job openings in the computer science industry by 2024, nearly 55 percent may go unfilled because of a current lack of qualified college graduates.
Baldy said designing the camp was the biggest challenge for her.
“There's so much stuff to sort through, and you don't want to leave something out,” she said. “I'm not great at video game design, and we found a website (Google CS First) that walks you through the process and also allows the kids to continue learning after the camp is over.”
Baldy said her goal was for each camp participant to find their own niche within the computer science world.
“I wanted to give them as much freedom as possible so they could do something they love using computer science, because it's a very flexible subject.”
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862 or firstname.lastname@example.org.