Project Spotlight: Understanding the Role of Gender in Engaging the Interest of Girls in Computer Science

Project Spotlight: Understanding the Role of Gender in Engaging the Interest of Girls in Computer Science

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

STELAR recently connected with Principal Investigator Jody Clarke-Midura of Utah State University to find out what her project, Understanding the Role of Gender in Engaging the Interest of Girls in Computer Science, did over the summer. 

 

How did your ITEST project impact youth this summer? 

During the summer of 2017, we conducted five camps on programming apps with MIT’s App Inventor. One camp provided high school youth with training in mentoring and experience in leadership, in addition to programming. The high schoolers then helped us run four camps for middle school aged youth.    

In total, our camps reached 112 middle school participants and 30 high school aged participants.  Preliminary data analysis shows an increase in interest and self-efficacy in CS for both mentors and mentees. Our preliminary results show that using a near-peer mentor model helps increase the campers’ interest and self-efficacy in programming.     

 

What strategies have you found most effective for engaging youth in a summer program?

As part of our camps, we developed a near-peer mentoring model where we trained high school youth to mentor middle school youth. After receiving training, the high schoolers provided help with programming and debugging.  For the middle school campers, having role models close in age helped create an atmosphere that was social and positive. Campers perceived the mentors as approachable, similar and credible role models. We also found that being able to create the app and see it and share it on a device is motivating for the campers. 

Elements that made the camp an enjoyable experience included:
- Flexibilility and creativity in personalizing one's own app
- Challenges in debugging apps
- Ability to share apps they create with friends and family
- Programming with friends

What is a lesson you’ve learned through your work with youth this summer? Any tips you can share with other ITEST projects? 

- Middle schoolers don’t like to read instructions!
- Creativity is an important part of learning to program
- Make it fun!  

What excites you most about the work you do every day? 

- When we see mentors and campers excited about the app they created.
- Reaching out to youth who never had programming experience and getting them so interested in CS that they want to be a mentor for us in the future
- Hearing that our camp changed someone’s perception about CS in terms of how social or fun it is
- Having kids get excited about CS and ask about future CS opportunities in our area