Innovative Summer Computer Science Program Reaches Out To Teenage Girls To Promote Interest in Technology

The ninth annual First Bytes Summer Camp, sponsored by The University of Texas at Austin Department of Computer Science, begins on June 19 on the university campus.

The free, week-long camp showcases the potential of a rewarding career in technology to selected Texas high school girls. Campers work together on programming language labs and logic games, see surgical robots in action, meet professional computer scientists, get career mentoring, play games, enjoy campus life and get a taste of what it's like to have a fascinating, well-paying job.

This year campers will visit a St. David's Hospital operating room to see how the robotic da Vinci Surgical System works. Campers will also participate in iPhone app programming challenges using IPRO, a virtual robotics program designed to teach computational literacy.

Women represent about 60 percent of college graduates nationally, but their representation in computer science is only around 15 percent. Often, girls see computer science as too hard, geeky or solitary, experts say. First Bytes aims to paint the more accurate picture that technological development is very collaborative and employers go to great lengths to keep highly trained professionals happy at work and home.

"Showing girls this reality is paying off," says Tiffany Grady, assistant director of academics for the Department of Computer Science. "This year, 12 students who attended a First Bytes camp will be starting as freshmen."

The department has 43 freshman women starting in 2011, which is 20 percent of the incoming freshman class of 211 students. This is an increase from 14 percent women in the 2010 incoming class.

"The camp is an excellent way for women to learn more about the exciting world of computer science," says Grady. "Almost every company has a critical need to find top computer science graduates, and women are, and will continue to be, in high demand."

Sponsors, including Bazaarvoice, Cisco Systems, Google, Lockheed Martin and the Texas Film Commission, pay all expenses for camp attendees. Google is also funding the annual First Bytes Workshop for Computer Science Teachers in July.

For more information visit the First Bytes Web site.