Changing the World Through Coding

Jane Keranen | August 20, 2017

IEC3 Summer camp encourages girls to embrace computer science

Students at the first IC3 summer camp

Room 106 at USC Waite Phillips Hall was alive with the raucous, inquisitive energy of dozens of young girls bedecked in brightly colored t-shirts. During Aug 7-11, this room has been the location for IEC3, a summer camp helmed by IEC3 director, Michelle Flowers Taylor. In collaboration with Tata Consultancy Services, the camp’s purpose was to connect local female, particularly African-American and Latina, students from underserved populations to the world of engineering and computer science.

“The theme of the camp was one of the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges, which is restoring and improving your urban environment,” Taylor said. The camp’s first day was concentrated on helping the students see their own community with new eyes and create an app that offers solutions to some of those community challenges, she added.

In addition to app development, the girls were exposed firsthand to the world of engineering through a trip to Google’s office in Venice. The Google trip was a major highlight for the participants at the camp. “I think what stood out the most was when we went to Google,” said 10-year old camper Janessa Techathamawong, “because I never really expected we would go into Google — maybe on the outside, but not on the inside. My favorite part of Google was around the end when we went into groups and were working together to create the app.”

Eleven-year old Summer Medford concurred. “I saw some women who were working on apps and creating YouTube channels to help other girls and kids learn to code,” she said. “My favorite part of Google was learning that women can change the world and that I can do anything to progress coding or learning how to code.”

As for the content of the camp, the girls agreed that there was a very empowering and informative takeaway. “My experience here has been great,” said 13-year old Adrienne Walker. “Learning how to create apps stood out,” she said. “I had never created an app before, so this was a new way to learn things.”

Medford also had some thoughts on the current state of diversity in engineering. “I think girls like my age should start coding more; they can get jobs at Google or Microsoft, or anywhere [else] in the industry of science,” she said.

IEC3 Director Taylor believed that the girls gained a lot from their summer camp experiences. “I have seen a lot of growth in terms of confidence, in terms of learning how to collaborate because they’re doing the apps in teams. That’s been huge,” she said. While some of the girls remain uncertain as to whether their future lies in engineering, the camp definitely left a resounding impact.

“It was really fun,” Medford said with a laugh, “and I hope I can come back next year.”