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The Girl Empowerment and Mentoring (GEM) for Computing Project

Collaborative Writing Contest Overview


The Second Annual GEM Team Writing Contest, organized by the CSE Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will encourage middle and high school students to learn about information technology (IT) and computing via three important activities:

  1. working with a “Big Sister” at UNL who will mentor the participants,
  2. working in a team with students from other schools, and
  3. investigating the use of IT and computing in real-world applications.

This contest will allow young students to learn from their mentors about life as a student at UNL and as a CS student, learn how to work as a team with teammates from other parts of the state of Nebraska, and learn how to investigate a technical topic and write cohesively and engagingly about their findings.  Essays will be judged on a variety of criteria and winning teams will be awarded with prizes and scholarships.

Contest Dates

  • Registration opens - October 14th, 2011
  • Registration closes - November 11th, 2011
  • Teams formed - Ongoing
  • Mentors assigned - Ongoing
  • Project deadline - March 5th, 2012

Contest Rules

  • Eligibility

    • If you are a student of a middle or high school, then you are eligible to participate in this contest.
  • Teams

    • After you register, we will form a GEM team for you, with teammates selected from other schools and other regions.  You are required to work as a team to complete your project.
  • Topics

    • The  topic of your multimedia essay is restricted to describing an application of your choice (e.g., Online Search Engines) and the in-depth discussion of the CS paradigm(s) underlying the application (e.g., the PageRank algorithm for Google).
    • You are allowed to produce and include video, animations, graphics, audio, as well as hyperlinks to go with the written text of your essay
    • Your GEM mentor will work with your GEM team to help you choose an application, identify the CS paradigms, and facilitate your investigation.
  • Mentors

    • You are required to work with a GEM mentor, who is a female student currently studying Computer Science or Computer Engineering at the University of Nebraska. 
    • It is expected that you will interact with your GEM mentor regularly during your writing project.  Your mentor will be able to provide guidance and insights to your investigation and writing processes.
  • Survey Participation

    • There are two sets of surveys for you to fill out:
      • A survey on your self-efficacy and motivation about CS topics before the writing project begins and after the contest deadline.  You are required to fill out the surveys in order for your essay entry to be official.
    • These surveys allow us to evaluate and learn about how the writing project impacts you and your understanding of and interest in CS topics.  This will help us improve the GEM project for future students

Judging Criteria

    • Content (40%): Well and clear articulation of the computer science paradigm(s) and its (their) use in the chosen domain and application, with sufficient depth and details
    • Engaging Factor (20%): Interesting writing that is able to capture readers’ attention targeting young readers like yourself and to inspire readers to want to learn more about the subject
    • Organization (15%): Logical and well though-out organization of the essay with effective  use of figures, charts, tables, and other forms.
    • Teamwork (25%): demonstrates teamwork activities as captured by the Blackboard Wiki system showing how each teammate contributes to the writing project, helps each other, and interacts with the mentor. 


Each team will be recognized during an event on UNL campus in March 2012. Contest prizes (e.g., gift certificates for text books) will be awarded to the winning teams.  Note that our CSE Department will also award additional scholarships to high-GPA (> 3.50) students of the winning teams, up to $1,000 per person.

School Visits & Shadow-A-Mentor Days

As part of GEM, we will also make school visits to talk about computational thinking and encourage participants to shadow their mentor for a day on the UNL campus.