To encourage women to explore careers in technology, Renton Technical College (RTC) is hosting a five-day “boot camp” for middle school and high school girls. The boot camp is called “Girls Exploring Tech.”
According to Stefanie McIrvin, the director of applied baccalaureate programs at RTC, the camp is free of charge for the girls. The camp started on June 25.
“This was funded through a Perkins non-traditional education grant, so there is no cost to the girls for the whole week. The food (lunch) is also paid for the whole week,” McIrvin said.
The college started their first bachelor of applied science program in 2015 and also have a four-year program for program in computer network architecture. Because of these programs, McIrvin said this camp was not only a way to encourage girls to get involved in tech, but also a way to spread the word that RTC offers four-year programs.
“We wanted to raise awareness about the fact that there are less women in tech, and we also wanted to support that pipeline and bring more women into our local tech industry,” McIrvin said.
RTC partnered with the Renton School District to make this camp happen, so all of the girls that are participating in the program are from one of the high schools in the area or one of the middle schools in the area.
“We just wanted to partner with our local community, our local school district in a way that would be supportive of the girls in this neighborhood,” McIrvin said.
According to some of the girls, the main reason why they wanted to enroll in this camp is to improve their coding and to see what sort of careers they could get into.
Jesenia Roberts, a senior at Hazen High School, said she moved from out of state to Washington because her previous school district did not have enough tech opportunities.
Jessica Monroy, a junior at Lindbergh High School, said she joined this camp because of one of her teachers.
“I decided to sign up because my teacher, who is a dear friend of mine, encouraged me to sign up for this only girls class and try to see if there were many more opportunities for girls our age to find jobs in a more male dominated career,” Monroy said.
During the camp, the girls will be learning two sides of tech — networking and coding.
To learn these two aspects of tech, McIrvin said the girls will be using a program called “Raspberry Pi.”
“Think of it as a tiny computer and server in one. Typically what you do is hook it up to a monitor, just like you would any other type of laptop or PC,” McIrvin explained. “It’s very powerful because it can connect to other devices via bluetooth so it’s a great way of connecting what we call, ‘Internet of things,’ or ‘IOT.’ So the girls are going to be using their Raspberry Pi as miniature computers (and) as miniature servers to hook up to speakers, to build robots and to build different music apps.”
McIrvin said this camp is important for girls to do because it’s a good way to boost their self-confidence. She said that women start to loose confidence in themselves at around middle school, especially in math and the STEM fields.
Other reasons why this camp is important, according to McIrvin, is because of access to equipment and exposure.
“They don’t always have access to the type of equipment that they’re going to be using during this program,” she said. “We wanted to get them exposed to not only computer science, which is of course the coding side. But I (also) think most important piece is boosting their confidence and their own skills and their own abilities. And then being able to take the confidence out when they finish high school, when they choose a program to go into for college.”