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JU holds free “App-Bots” workshop to attract girls to computing science

Jacksonville University recently held the second grant-funded, free workshop to attract high school girls to computer science, with participants taking a crack at creating smart-phone apps and building remote-controlled robots.

The “App-Bots” workshop, held this year April 6, is organized yearly by the Computing Sciences department. It is supported by volunteers from the Women In Computer Science organization and the Royal Computer Science Society.

The program started last spring with a grant funded by the Anita Borg Institute to JU’s Dr. Xenia Mountrouidou (known by her students as “Dr. X”), Assistant Professor of Computing Sciences.

The goal of the workshop is to attract more women to computer science.

“Women are severely underrepresented in the field,” Mountrouidou said. “There are various organized efforts to support and retain them at JU. These efforts led to the yearly App-Bots workshops and the WICS society, an organization to attract and retain women in computing science.”

The workshop was again successful, with participants from various high schools, such as Paxon School for Advanced Studies, the Frank H. Peterson Academies, Providence School of Jacksonville and Sandalwood High School.

The day started with registration and donuts brought by RCSS secretary and JU education major Carl Hooker. Students then built applications for smartphones with Mountrouidou, even creating a full app of the Magic 8-Ball game.

After lunch they constructed a Lama robot and controlled it through their phones using a smartphone app remote control, Mountrouidou said.

The remote control app was developed by App-Bots college student volunteer Scott Jeffas, JU junior in computing science and member of RCSS, and Rachael Jenkins, JU junior in computing science and WICS vice president.

Meanwhile, Davina Hamilton, a master’s degree candidate in education and member of WICS, taught the students how to create a website with Wix, an intuitive drag-and-drop tool.

The students loved the freebies with the JU logo and had a chance to enjoy the sunny Saturday while walking to have lunch at the school cafeteria. At the end of the day, they could not pick which was their favorite activity, but one thing was for sure: they wanted to be back at JU.