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New Mexico State University

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NMSU program helps young women break into computer science

The next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg may very well be a Samantha or a Megan and the Young Women in Computing program at New Mexico State University is looking to help make that a reality by cultivating young women's interest in computer science.

Two students participate in outreach activity run by New Mexico State University's Young Women in Computing program. (Courtesy photo)

YWiC has a camp for middle school and high school students that teaches adolescent girls about different areas of computer science and gives them hands-on experience with animation, robotics and Web programming.

"The camp is organized so girls can become confident in their computer science abilities and hopefully pursue careers in computer science, a field in which they are a minority," said Rebecca Galves, who coordinates the YWiC program along with Rachel Jensen.

One project the middle-school students work on is a graphics oriented animation program students use to make 3D movies and create their own interactive story. They also use software that allows them to build small robots and program them to perform tasks.

The high school students program an intensive animation simulation that involves greater use of programming language and code. They also use programming software that includes a set of sewable electronic components which allows them to create interactive fashion pieces using LED lights and other materials.

YWiC has been in existence for the last six years and is run by the Department of Computer Science at NMSU, through a grant made available from the National Science Foundation. Those involved in the program also conduct outreach programs and work with teachers, administrators and anyone else interested in bringing computer science activities to the classroom.

"We meet with hundreds of students and teachers each year to introduce computing in friendly, fun and interactive ways in order to heighten everyone's awareness about the many faces of computing," Galves said.

While many young people use computers and are familiar with various applications, YWiC tries to emphasize computer programming and ways in which computer science relates to virtually every occupational field.

For more information about the YWiC program, contact Galves at rgalves@cs.nmsu.edu or Jensen at rjensen@nmsu.edu. Information is also available on the YWiC website at www.cs.nmsu.edu/ywic.