When college sophomore Abigail Dina meets with 5th- through 12th-grade girls during the virtual coding camp she launched with fellow student Chelsea Amihere, she encourages them to not get caught up in stereotypes associated with STEM and to “draw your own picture” for what their educational path and eventual STEM career could look like.
“Chelsea and I believe that the way coding is taught in college can be revised to be more accessible for all students,” said Dina. “Our reach is unlimited because our camp is virtual.”
Both Dina and Amihere are studying computer science at Morgan State University (MSU), a DoD STEM partner in educational outreach through the Defense STEM Education Consortium (DSEC). They are also involved in the AspireIT leadership program through the National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT), another DoD STEM partner. MSU and NCWIT/AspireIT awarded them DoD STEM seed money to launch a virtual coding camp to teach Java 2.0 to 25 elementary school girls in Fall 2020. The camp was a success, so from there the young women quickly organized another camp with DoD STEM funding in Spring 2021 for 45 students and included students up to 12th grade.
Building on their success, Dina and Amihere were soon awarded $25,000 from telecommunications company Ciena to conduct a 10-week camp during Summer 2021 for up to 75 students. Momentum was on their side and 100 students signed up, including many across the country. All 100 were allowed to attend the camp where students will learn how to code in programming language Python.
“I had this vision that this camp could be very influential,” said Dina. “My interest in STEM was encouraged very early through HTML coding and robotics summer camps and I wanted to share this enthusiasm with others.”
Amihere encourages students to start early and look at coding like any other foreign language, which can seem unapproachable at first and then a little less daunting as a foundation is built through persistence and different experiences. Hack-a-thons, after-school programs, competitions and even YouTube, Instagram and websites such as W3Schools are great resources for students and highly encouraged by Dina and Amihere.
Amihere says she learned how teams work by attending events like hack-a-thons in high school, before the COVID-19 pandemic. “I wish I’d known earlier how many different career paths exist for computer science graduates, so I am sure to share details with our students,” says Amihere. “STEM covers so much, including UX/UI design, software engineering, data science and project management to name just a few areas. Teamwork is the fun part for me so we emphasize that in our camps. Our students say that our camp is fun so it must be working!”
To learn more about W3Schools, visit https://www.w3schools.com. For more information about Coursera’s Python coding courses are available at https://www.coursera.org/search?query=python. More information about Udemy’s Python Complete Course for Python Beginners is available at https://www.udemy.com/course/python-complete-course-for-beginners. Additional details about DoD STEM/DSEC partners can be found at https://www.dodstem.us/about/partners.ABOUT MSU CENTER FOR EXCELLENCE IN MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE EDUCATION
MSU’s Center for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Education (CEMSE) was created to enhance MSU’s math and science offerings for its students and to address how technology influences all aspects of society—from health and the environment to the nation’s workforce and national defense. CEMSE’s role in DSEC is to support collaborative activities between MSU students, the surrounding Baltimore community and the numerous DoD installations in the greater Washington, DC/Baltimore area.ABOUT NCWIT / ASPIREIT
NCWIT/AspireIT is designed to teach K–12 girls programming fundamentals and computational thinking in fun, creative and hands-on environments. AspireIT participants are ultimately encouraged to contribute their unique perspectives and ideas to future innovations.