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Dig'nIT Camp Introduces Coeur d'Alene Girls to Coding

Middle school girls in the Coeur d’Alene area tried their hands at computer coding at the Dig'nIT summer camp sponsored by the University of Idaho.

The week-long camp brought together 30 girls in the summers of 2013 and 2014 to learn basic coding techniques and mathematics in an MIT-developed program that allows them to create their own animated environments and games while developing new skills. At the end of camp, the students presented their work to members of the local community. (View the camp’s final projects.)

“There’s high demand for jobs in computer science, but in Idaho almost all the students in computer science courses at the university level are male. We wanted to reach out to females and give them the opportunity to work with other females and see what they can learn, do and explore about mathematics through coding,” said Julie Amador, a U of I assistant professor of curriculum and instruction who led the project along with U of I computer science professor Terry Soule.

“By exposing girls to coding, it provides them with ideas about different career options that may be out there for them,” Amador said.

Coeur d’Alene is one of four Idaho communities in which U-Idaho’s science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, Education Research Initiative launched its second round of innovative programs to elevate STEM education by focusing on students, parents and schools.

The programs are part of a five-year project funded by a $1.2 million Micron Foundation gift. Dig'nIT camps were also sponsored by the Idaho Department of Education, iShoutOut, Verizon Wireless, and Hewlett Packard.

Amador said the Dig'nIT camp teaches the girls real-world math skills as well as coding.

“They go to school and learn all these things about math, and actually being able to apply it and see that it’s helpful encourages their growth.  A lot of them are even surprised that they’re learning math, then go back and see they’re really putting to use things they’ve learned in the classroom.”

Dig'nIT also included a summer-long intensive internship program in 2013 and 2014 for five high-school girls, who learned about technology careers while working with local businesses and organizations.

Amador said the data she’s collected about the girls’ experiences at the Dig'nIT camp and internships indicates the program has met its goals of giving the students new skills and influencing positive perceptions of technology and technology careers.

As one student reported, “Before this experience I had no idea how apps were made or how designers worked at technology companies. I think I will consider majoring in some type of graphic design program using computers.”

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