Bits and Bytes Camp provides valuable experiences for middle school girls interested in computing

The camps provide a supportive network where girls can create and explore computer science

Young girls participate in a summer camp in computer science at EMU.

YPSILANTI – According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer science jobs are on the rise, however, women only earn 18% of computer science bachelor's degrees in the United States. To help introduce young girls to careers in computer science, Eastern Michigan University Computer Science Professor Krish Narayanan has been hosting summer camps for middle school girls since 2017. This year, the first camp was in person on EMU’s campus in early July. The second camp is virtual and slated for July 25-29. Each camp is designed to teach middle school girls the fundamentals of computer science and technology.

“About 10 years into this profession, I found out that there weren't many girls in my classroom, and it bothered me,” said Narayanan. After noticing the small number of female students in her classroom, Narayanan established a Women in Computer Science Club at EMU. She is also noted for hosting prior camps for middle and high school girls. 

Now, the camps are gaining great momentum. The fully booked camps are funded by the Women in Philanthropy Grant through EMU and the Michigan Space Grant Consortium through NASA. With the help of two grants this year, the camp expanded into an online and in-person session. Each camp is staffed by the Women in Computer Science Club at EMU.

The camp features a blend of learning and hands-on activities. Students are charged with developing a computer game using Scratch software, coding robots to perform different tasks, and developing mobile apps. Additionally, they fly drones and participate in a mock hackathon, an event where computer programmers come together to solve tech problems and develop new software. 

The camp concludes with a ceremony featuring a panel of EMU computer science students, alumni, and guest speaker, Samantha Hughson, software engineer at LEGO Education.

“My favorite part of the camp is seeing the young girls' faces light up when they learn a new skill,” said Kaitlyn Tracy, camp staff member. 

Other camp staff compare the camp to previous years as the smoothest one yet and an enjoyable experience for the girls. 

“I'm not sure if I can attribute it to my outreach efforts, but there are more females in our classrooms than we had 10 years ago,” said Narayanan. 

About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 15,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and its graduate school. National publications regularly recognize EMU for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website. To stay up to date on University news, activities and announcements, visit EMU Today.

July 27, 2022

Written by:
Andrew Fogle

Contact:
Brittany Mobley
bmobley1@emich.edu
734-487-4402