JU’s Women in Computer Science Society recently held its first meeting to help attract more women to the field, as well as to offer mentoring and professional advice.
The officers of the club are Crystal Armstrong (president), Rachael Jenkins (vice president), Kelsey Carl (secretary) and Brianna Keaton (treasurer). Their adviser is Xenia Mountrouidou, JU assistant professor of computing sciences.
Too few women graduate or work in the computer science field, Mountrouidou noted. In fact, a survey by the Computing Research Association found that while the number of overall U.S. bachelor’s degrees in computer science programs continues to grow – up another 10.5 percent in the 2010-11 school year – the percentage of female bachelor’s graduates actually decreased from 13.8 percent in 2009-10 to 11.7 percent in 2010-11.
“WICS’ mission is to change this percentage in Jacksonville and especially at JU,” Mountrouidou said.
The chapter plans to organize another “App-Bots” computer science workshop for high school girls. Last year JU held a successful workshop with 12 high school girls from Jacksonville, she said. This year it plans to have 30 girls and teach them how to build robots with Lego NXT, how to program Android phones using App Inventor, how to program using Alice software and how to build a website using Wix software.
“Some of the WICS member taught these sessions last year very successfully,” Mountrouidou said. “Last year this workshop was funded by a grant from the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology to buy the robots. We intend to hold this event again this year, on March 29.”
Another goal of WICS is participation in the national Grace Hopper Celebration in Computing 2013 (see http://gracehopper.org/2012/). The large conference offers recruiting events, undergraduate and graduate research presentations and networking opportunities for female CS majors. The WICS members will apply for grants to participate in this conference.