In celebration of the completion of “The Girls Coding Project Powered by AT&T,” New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul addressed a roomful of smiling young participants July 28 in Buffalo State’s Technology Building.
Hochul emphasized the importance of engaging in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and career pathways, especially computer programing.
“I feel I’m looking out at a group of future leaders,” Hochul told the 28 sixth-through-ninth grade girls representing five Western New York school districts. “You can run for office, you can run a business, you can run your lives in a better way because of what you’ve done here this past two weeks.”
A collaborative effort between WNY STEM HUB and AT&T, in collaboration with Buffalo State, Girl Scouts of WNY, and General Motors Tonawanda Engine, the program took place on Buffalo State’s campus and marks the region’s only all-girl coding program. The purpose is to encourage more young females to pursue technology careers, specifically computer coding, an industry that is predominately male-dominant.
“STEM programs like the Girls Coding Project put young women on a trajectory for success in an economy increasingly defined by emerging technologies,” Hochul said. “Women must play a larger role in the computer sciences and in all STEM disciplines, and programs like this are critically important to closing that gap.”
Over the past two weeks, Buffalo State’s Computer Information Systems (CIS) Department faculty taught participants how to code, create storyboards, produce animated movies, make learning games, and build basic websites.
“This is a smart group of girls,” CIS lecturer Charles Arbutina said. “They definitely had the aptitude, but most knew nothing about coding when we began. Some went so fast I had to create more assignments for them. We were using the same concepts I’m teaching my undergraduate students.”
During Friday’s visit, Hochul viewed the projects the girls completed individually and in groups.
“I was honored to meet these remarkable students and see first-hand how this experience is changing their lives,” Hochul said.
Prior to Friday’s event, Marissa Shorenstein, president for the east region of AT&T, noted, “We are committed to helping bridge the gender gap in STEM-related fields by equipping girls with technology literacy and education and providing opportunities that will empower them with the skills and confidence to compete in the global innovation economy. I applaud Lieutenant Governor Hochul for making time to address these young minds and encourage them to strive to be the next leaders in the robust twenty-first-century economy.”
This is the second year for the girls coding initiative. Last year’s “It’s Your World! Develop It! Powered by AT&T,” continued into fall 2016 and winter 2017. One project led to the creation of a mobile app that will provide childcare resources for families when launched later in the year.
“The inaugural year of this project was very successful in changing girls’ confidence, attitudes, and skills about computer science,” said Michelle Kavanaugh, president of WNY STEM Hub. “The girls surprised themselves at how much they could do to affect the world around them through coding.”
One of those young women is Sanna Vollbrecht, a rising freshman at Frontier High School who wants to pursue a career in biomedical engineering.
“I returned this year because I wanted to further my learning about programming,” Vollbrecht said. “The computer field is just becoming bigger and bigger. There are so many opportunities.”
Reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Labor indicate that by 2020 there will be 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs with more than half made up of computer and coding careers, but only three percent of the 1.4 million computer science jobs in the United States will be held by women.
“It is undeniable that there is an increasing need for more woman in the robust coding sector,” Kavanaugh said. “Innovative ways are needed to encourage girls to follow this career path, and we are thankful for all the organizations that have collaborated to make it a reality.”
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