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Girls In IT

                                                         ‘GIRLS IN IT’ EVENT HAS KIDS PULLING HARD DRIVES, WRITING CODE AND CONSIDERING NEW CAREERS                                       

By Julie Ebben-Matzke, Associate Dean, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College

NWTC recently hosted 100 enthusiastic middle school girls for a day of IT career exploration, and the impact was immediate.

Larissa, who was busy pulling parts from an open computer on her desk, said she hadn’t been interested in IT until she came to NWTC’s “Girls in IT” event, but she realized she liked working on hardware. “It’s teaching me more stuff about computers and how I can work with them,” she said. “It’s my kind of thing.

Jenna, sitting next to her with another disassembled computer, agreed. “I like it. I think it’s interesting. I like taking apart the computer [and] the coding was fun.” She added that she could see herself doing this in the future.

Microsoft TechSpark Wisconsin Manager Michelle Schuler gave the keynote speech at the beginning of the morning, encouraging the girls to be “Continuously Rewriting Yourself” and encouraging them to #MakeWhatsNext. As soon as the breakouts began, she was with the students, helping them troubleshoot their robot instructions.

Participants came from public schools in Green Bay and Pulaski for a half-day of hands-on activities in four breakout sessions:

  • Robot programming – Students worked in pairs to create a path for the Ozobots to follow with some required pieces demonstrating the logical steps needed to for coding.
  • Website development- Students designed a simple personalized website
  • Networking –  Students used remote desktop to gain control of their partner’s display and make changes to it.
  • Computer assembly – Students disassembled and reassembled a PC.

They are going to remember how good they are at this. If you were to ask them before whether they could build a computer or write a program, they would have said no. But now they know that they can. I have not seen a single girl who said ‘I just can’t do this.’ They were so excited, the energy level was amazing. It’s been great.

The workshop was sponsored by a Perkins Non-Traditional Occupations Grant, which funds career exploration for people in fields where their gender is underrepresented.