College hosts technology camp for middle school girls

Florida State University’s College of Communication and Information (CCI) hosted its first-ever Girls Technology Camp June 17-21 for local middle school girlsas part of a community outreach effort to introduce them to the world of information technology.

Forty-two girls received instruction aboutdifferent aspects of technology and program design, from hardware usage to software creation. The informative first lessons set the scene for hands-on, interactive learning for the rest of the week. The introductory workshop focused on hardware and media, providing the participants with a basic understanding of photo and sound manipulation as well as experience with several tablet computers.

Over five days, the students learned basic coding, HTML, game design, web design, security and privacy. By the camp’s end, attendees triumphantly walked out with their very own websites and even custom-made video games.

The camp sessions were led byLynnsey Weissenberger, FSU School of Library and Information Studies doctoral student and SLIS webmaster;Geoffrey Miller, assistant director of the FSU Program in Interdisciplinary Computing; FSU SLIS information technology students Jon Gluesenkamp, Lucas Heacock and Michael Helfrich; and FSU SLIS information technology alumni Kara James andThomas Smith.

Upperdivision undergraduate CCI students facilitated the classes during the week acting as pod leaders for each group of four students. Their efforts were overseen by CCIs Associate Dean Ebe Randeree in partnership with Women in Information Technology Sharing Experiences (WISE) President Nancy Moyers. Both have been very involved in working with the community through organizations such as WISE and CCI’s Students & Technology in Academia, Research, & Service (STARS) Alliance. The main goal of STARS is to increase interest among women and minorities in STEM-related majors and opportunities and to help level out the pre-dominantly male IT field.

“Getting people interested early in their lives is ideal,” Moyers said. “It helps to build lifelong passions, which is an important factor of success.”

Another important aspect of the camp is that it provided students with the opportunity to learn from prominent successful women involved with technology. From backgrounds as diverse as CEOs of successful IT start-ups to cybersecurity analysts, the speakers had a wealth of knowledge and experience to share. They all had a common piece of advice for future students. As Chief Information Systems Officer Sabrina Hoffman said, “The best way to be successful is to gain plenty of experience. Take advantage of opportunities like this camp whenever you can.”

“The middle school female students were very happy that we included successful business leaders and college female leaders as showcases of success for them to meet,” Randeree said. “They provided a glimpse of what the girls could achieve and supported the efforts of CCI to include more young women in technology careers.”

Guest speakers who shared stories with the camp were:

  • Leanne Adkins, director, Project Management Office, Tallahassee Memorial Hospital
  • Kira Derryberry, CEO, Kira Derryberry Photography
  • Amy Fox, FSU Information Technology Services
  • Sabrina Holloman, chief information systems officer, City of Tallahassee
  • Nadia Kamal, CEO, Onyx Creative Group
  • Sunshine Lewis, web specialist, Florida Department of State
  • Mia Lustria, associate professor, CCI
  • Mary McLaughlin, cybersecurity analyst, Florida Fusion Center, Florida Department of Law Enforcement
  • Mindy Waters, practice manager, Tribridge

The Girls Technology Camp is one of many previous endeavors by the college to reach out to the community.

“CCI is holding more technology camps and workshops to encourage females and young people to become interested in STEM,” Randeree said.

STARS has held numerous camps, visited local Leon County schools, and frequently partners with STEM clubs and STEM K-12 teachers to hold technology camps/training.

Three full-day Saturday workshops also were held this spring, including two on gaming design, and another on programming and coding. Plans are being drafted for an advanced game design camp, a second coding camp and two camps on robotics.