Aug 25, 2017 By Victoria Grdina
When Mickey Tran first attended the Department of Computer Science and Engineering’s summer Girl Scout camp, she was 16, entering her senior year of high school, and didn’t know much about coding. Through the camp, Tran had the opportunity to dive into app development, take a tour of Spreetail, and discover her future career path.
This summer, Tran returned to the camp as a sophomore CSE student, camp mentor and Spreetail intern.
“Honestly, without this camp, I don't think I would've chosen computer science as my major,” Tran said. “That first year of attending the camp helped me become more confident in my programming abilities. It showed me if I put the work and interest into it, I could do it.”
CSE hosted its third annual camp for the Girl Scouts of Nebraska last month. Every summer, the department invites the Girl Scouts to spend three days at the university studying computing with CSE faculty and student mentors.
In previous years, the camp’s learning activities have focused specifically on app development. This year, mentors from the CSE Ambassadors and Computing for All decided to expand the curriculum to also include activities like building paper circuits and programming LEGO robots.
Tyler Barker, a junior computer engineering major who co-planned this year’s camp, saw an opportunity to utilize the resources the CSE Ambassadors acquired through other mentoring initiatives to offer the Girl Scouts a more comprehensive learning experience.
“I think it provided a lot more mechanical thinking than in the past—kind of a computer engineering side,” Barker said. “I think it’s pretty important to understand early on, that if they want to enter into some field like this, what they’re actually getting into and what the overall concepts would be.”
In addition to dabbling in more areas of computing, the Girl Scouts had the chance to spend the final day of the camp at Nebraska Innovation Campus, where they explored the Nebraska Innovation Studio makerspace and toured the Spreetail headquarters. Following the tour, the campers presented their robotics projects right in the Spreetail office.
Tran said this camp offers Girl Scouts the unique opportunity to not only learn more about computing in general, but also see what a future career in the field might be like.
“The mentors being real-life computer programming students helps these girls get direct insight from people who are experiencing the education they might someday have,” Tran said. “And with the mini field trip of seeing real-life industry work, it gives the campers a chance to see how this stuff is being used in the real world. It's a really practical camp that shows the reality of the computing field: It can be hard, but you can still do it.”
Tran plans to continue mentoring and possibly teaching at some point in her career. She hopes to provide younger students, especially women and minorities, with the same kind of encouragement she received.
“One of the campers approached me the day of her presentation and told me because of my help, she began having a stronger interest in programming and plans on coming back next summer,” Tran said. “She showed me this camp can truly have a strong impact on the campers and their future. It made me love the work Girl Scouts and the university do for this camp a hundred times more.”
More details at: http://www.girlscoutsnebraska.org