University of Calgary

Myth-busting workshop aims to get girls hooked on computer science

UToday HomeJune 17, 2013

By Marie-Helene Thibeault

Thirty-six young women from across Canada took part in a unique workshop to ignite their enthusiasm for computer science.Thirty-six young women from across Canada took part in a unique workshop to ignite their enthusiasm for computer science. Photo by Ryan WooMost teenage girls today can’t live without smartphones, laptops or electronic tablets. So why aren’t more considering careers in computer science?

At the University of Calgary, enrolment in the undergraduate computer science program decreased between 20 and 30 per cent after the dot-com bust. Although the number of students entering computer science has increased to near normal levels, enrolment of women still hovers around 13 per cent.

Last week, 36 young women from as far away as the Maritimes were on campus to attend a Workshop in Computer Science for Young Women. Held jointly by the University of Calgary and the University of Waterloo, the workshops for girls in grades 9 and 10 were designed to ignite enthusiasm for computer science and transform perceptions.

Research has shown that some aspects about computing may discourage women, with one of the biggest turn-offs being the “geek factor.”

“Computer science is an exciting and challenging discipline with many interesting problems that need to be solved,” explains Ben Stephenson, senior computer science instructor, and event host for the Calgary workshop. “I believe that bringing more women to the field promotes creativity and helps to solve these problems.”

Topics covered at the workshops included programming, data representation, algorithms, artificial intelligence, and cryptography. The workshop also explored the links between computer science and other disciplines such as physics and medicine.

For Kathy Qian, 14, from Calgary, the workshop offered an opportunity to foster her passion while networking with other females who have similar interests.

“I’m already involved in computer programming contests as well as website development,” she says. “Meeting other girls who share a similar interest while discovering the opportunities associated to a career in computer science is certainly a highlight of the workshop.”

The Calgary workshop is sponsored by The Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing, the University of Calgary, the Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, the Canadian Association of Computer Science/Association d’informatique Canadienne, and Imperial Oil.


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