Department of Computer Science and Engineering offers summer camp for girls

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Computer science is a fundamental gateway to influence our software-driven society, yet according to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 18 percent of undergraduate computer science degrees in the U.S. are awarded to women.

The Penn State Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE), in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, wants to see this percentage increase. This summer, the department is hosting its first-ever computer science camp for girls.

"Girls Solving Societal Problems Through Computer Science," for students entering seventh to 10th grades this fall, will give girls an opportunity to learn more about this important subject. The camp will be held 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., July 17-21, in the IST/Westgate Building on the University Park Campus. The cost is $150 per student.

For more information, visit: http://www.eecs.psu.edu/community/EECS-Computer-Science-Camp.aspx

"We believe that computer science provides outstanding opportunities for females in terms of academic challenges, interesting work and excellent careers," Thomas La Porta, director of the School and the William E. Leonhard Chair Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, said. "Given the low enrollment of young women in computer science across the country, the CSE department felt it would be useful to offer a camp informing them about the interesting areas of computer science technology and careers."

Vijay Narayanan, distinguished professor of computer science and engineering, said the week-long camp — July 17-21 — will make girls more comfortable with technology and give them a better understanding of all the great career opportunities there are in computer science. Students will learn how a computer connected to a wearable camera can help a visually impaired person in a grocery store. They'll learn about the software used and experiment with the hardware that goes into the design of this system. Campers will have an hour of mathematical play where they'll solve mathematical puzzles, and investigate mathematical foundations of computing.

"Students will be able to apply concepts and skills learned in envisioning new computing systems that aid humans. They can start designing new systems that can help society," Narayanan said. "Many of the educational experiences will allow team interactions to make new friends. The students will also compete in games to evaluate what they learned."

At a time when jobs in computer science are among the highest-paying and fastest-growing in the U.S. economy, it's important for girls to have an opportunity to understand the range of work they can do in this field.

"Computer science is critical in almost any area of society today. It is at the core of running most major companies, discoveries made in science, engineering and communications," said La Porta. "There is a very diverse set of excellent career options in computer science."

—Rebekka Coakley