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Ohio University Summer Coding Camp introduces middle school girls to computer programming

Claire Berlin | Jun 5, 2017

OHIO Summer Coding Camp students pose for a photo at the Scripps College of Communication. / Photo by Scott Titsworth

Ohio University Summer Coding Camp introduces middle school girls to computer programming

By Claire Berlin

ATHENS, Ohio (June 5, 2017)—The first Ohio University Summer Coding Camp, which took place May 31-June 4, hosted 21 students from throughout Ohio. The camp is a free program offered by the University to help introduce middle-school-age girls to basic computer programming with the hope of helping them develop skills that can open pathways for them in this rapidly growing career field.
 
“Nationally, we know that the number of females and minorities in coding, scripting and the general IT world needs to be enhanced because it is disproportionate now in terms of who is represented in the profession,” said Dean of the Scripps College of Communication Scott Titsworth. “The Summer Coding Camp is a chance to specifically target young women and introduce them to the coding and scripting field and the STEM field as a whole.”

During the week, camp participants had the opportunity to work with and learn from faculty, staff and nine advanced Ohio University students in a variety of majors. Students were broken into three teams to work on separate coding projects. The teams focused on apps, games and website creation.

Applications and social media usually have at least some part in our daily lives, so the App Team invented a social media application called slAPP. In this app, users can create and share drawings, art, recipes and creative writing. Students used the MIT App Inventor to create their own custom working apps.

“I’ve had a little bit of experience [with coding] just during the summer on my own free time, but this was better than that, it was nice to have people who knew what they were doing,” said Greta Gunderson, a student in the App Team.

The Game Team participants all decided to build their own game using Scratch, a free drag and drop coding application from MIT. Although Scratch was designed for ages 8 to 16, anyone can use this platform to create games, animations and interactive stories. While they designed their own individual games, the students and counselors all worked to troubleshoot problems together. Their completed games included driving, choose your own adventure, music, mazes and more.

OU Zoo, the Website Team’s project, examined the idea of what different types of animals would portray students and people in a college environment. Students used programs such as Scratch, WIX, Photoshop and MS Paint to create individual webpages for each of the “Zoo-dents” and added photos, audio, videos and amination to their pages.

“Obviously, students at this age are generally not yet deciding what their college major is going to be, but they are thinking about what interests they want to continue emphasizing,” said Titsworth. “We’re really trying to help these students see how they can learn these skills and platforms easily, teach them about entrepreneurship, what they can do with this knowledge and how this can fit into a larger picture of a career trajectory. We hope that this camp experience increases their comfort level and excitement about the topic of coding so that they can see different pathways for themselves.”

Several students already had career aspirations ranging from video gamer developer to architect, but many agreed that the camp was a fun learning experience. For some students, this was their first time using coding programs, such as Scratch, and learning coding techniques.

“Originally, I wanted to be a neuroscientist but after this it has sort of made me reconsider a little bit, because this is really fun,” said Gunderson.  

During the week, participants were able to visit the Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab, TechGROWTH Ohio, the Kennedy Museum of Art, and the Innovation Center. Students also attended several guest speaker sessions which included tips on giving presentations and IT career advice.

Since the camp is a residential camp, with shared rooms in University Residence Halls, students were able to enjoy entertainment activities in the evenings. The group attended Concert Under the Elms on College Green, went bowling, tackled an obstacle course in Ping Recreation Center and watched the “Hidden Figures” movie.
 
“I really liked all of the freedom we got, like staying in the dorms and getting to eat in the dining hall with a different mix of people, not just ourselves,” said Gunderson.

Last fall, the Grants and Funding Committee of the Ohio University Foundation awarded the camp $27,430.30 in funding from the 1804 Fund. The 1804 Fund finances curricular innovations, programs and activities that improve the undergraduate educational experience and innovations in graduate education. The camp is a collaboration between the Ohio University Scripps College of Communication, Russ College of Engineering and Technology, Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education, Office of Multicultural Access and Retention and Ohio University Undergraduate Admissions.

The camp ended on Sunday where students presented their finished coding projects for their families.

“I liked that we had some freedom and were allowed to go visit our friends at night in the residence halls and that we were able to expand our projects with our imagination,” said participant Lillian Crow. “I learned that creating an app is hard work, but at the same time it is kind of easy. This is my first summer camp so it was really fun!”

For more information on the Ohio University Summer Coding Camp, visit https://www.ohio.edu/scrippscollege/ohiocodingcamp.cfm.

To see photos from the 2017 camp, visit the photo album.

To see coverage of the camp on social media, visit Instagram or Twitter.