Janesville15.4°

No boys allowed: Camp perking girls’ interest in boys-only careers

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Kayla Bunge
August 1, 2008
— You won’t find any tents, campfires or s’mores at this camp.

And you certainly won’t find any boys.


What you will find is a bubbly bunch of middle school girls tossing around words such as “source code,” “hyperlink” and “domain name.”


While the number of women working in science, information technology, engineering and mathematics is disproportionate to the number of men in those fields, programs such as the CyberGirlz camp at UW-Whitewater are getting young girls interested.


“There’s a stereotype that IT is for male geeks,” said Denise Schulz, a lecturer in the information technology and business education department. “We’re trying to break that stereotype and let girls know … there’s a lot more to IT than sitting in front of a computer and programming.”


The CyberGirlz camp, which began Monday and wrapped up today, introduced middle-school girls to Flash animation, digital photography and videography, and Web design.


Schulz said the camp organizers worked with local business education teachers and UW-Whitewater business education students to develop a curriculum that jibed with the girls’ interests.


The girls spent Thursday brainstorming an idea for a Web site and learning the tools to create Web pages with text, images and links.


Gabrielle Burkhamer and Ali Weilbrenner, sixth-graders at Franklin Elementary School in Janesville, said they grew up with computers, but the CyberGirlz camp opened their eyes to the possibilities of technology.


“This is so fun,” Weilbrenner said repeatedly, and she and Burkhamer storyboarded their Web site called “Frog World.”


They sketched a home page that would introduce visitors to the Web site and give them with links to a handful of pages—one with information about frogs, another where they could design a virtual frog and another where they could interact with the frog.


UW-Whitewater offered a high school science and technology camp July 21-25, but it was canceled because of a lack of enrollment.


“That confirmed our thoughts that high school girls have decided that IT is not a field for them,” said Sara Deschner, a lecturer in the information technology and business education department.


That’s why camp organizers tailored the CyberGirlz camp to what middle school girls already are doing on the computer and brought in local IT professionals to tell the girls about the real-world applications of those skills.


The goal is to perk the girls’ interest enough that they’re excited about learning and thinking about pursuing a related career, Schulz said.



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