Students examine the initial prototype of the TeleBot created in FIU's Discovery Lab.

Students examine the initial prototype of the TeleBot created in FIU’s Discovery Lab.

FIU’s School of Computing and Information Sciences (SCIS) announced a new partnership with Girls Who Code – a national non-profit organization that seeks to inspire, educate and equip girls with computing skills for the 21st century; the school will also be continuing its involvement in the organization’s acclaimed Summer Immersion Program in 2015.

This year’s seven-week Summer Immersion Program is the most extensive yet, growing from 19 programs servicing 375 girls in 2014 to 60 programs reaching close to 1,200 girls in nine cities nationwide.

The program teaches young women – rising high school juniors and seniors – everything from mobile app development to robotics to web design, and participants will ultimately get a chance to see their products in real life.

In addition to classroom education, girls in the program receive exposure to the world of computer science, with field trips to major companies in the media and technology fields, as well as meeting some of the top executives of technology companies. No prior coding experience is required.

The school is joining companies such as Verizon, Accenture, Adobe, AIG, AT&T, Electronic Arts, Facebook, GE, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Pixar Animation Studios, The Honest Company and Twitter in the critical movement to close the gender gap in the computing and technology sector.

“This is an excellent way to attract talented women students to computer science and information technology career paths,” SCIS Director S. S. Iyengar said.

Currently, women make up the majority of the labor force nationwide, but hold only 25 percent of jobs in computing and technical fields. By 2020, there will be 1.4 million jobs available in the computing related fields, but women educated in the United States are only on pace to filling three percent of these positions.

“The gender gap isn’t just a Silicon Valley issue anymore,” said Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code. “The shortage of women in technical roles, whether it’s retail, entertainment or finance, is a massive crisis both in terms of innovation and socio-economic equality throughout the United States. Girls Who Code has established a successful track record of empowering girls to pursue majors and eventually careers in computer science, and we’re inspired that a powerhouse organization such as Florida International University’s SCIS has invested in taking our movement to the next level this summer.”

SCIS’s goal is to improve the shortage of women talent in computing. The school leads Florida in graduating the most women with computing related degrees. With Tech Station, a new facility opening in Fall 2015, SCIS will strengthen this position and allow the school to compete nationally for attracting women to its programs.

Tech Station’s innovative approach to integrating advising, mentoring, curriculum and laboratories, all in an attractive high tech office setting, creates a space for inspiration and creative thinking. The Girls Who Code Miami Summer Immersion Program at SCIS, hosted by Verizon, will be the first program to use the facility to engage its students.

“By participating in the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program, SCIS hopes girls will gain confidence in their computing skills, and will begin to see themselves capable of entering the field and making valuable contributions,” SCIS instructor Cristy Charters  said.

“The facilities at FIU’s PG6 – Tech Station make learning about computing even more appealing, with state-of-the-art computer labs, active learning classrooms, and team breakout rooms that will encourage collaboration among the GWC students.”

Charters is one of several female faculty and instructors hired recently. SCIS has hired three female instructors in the last three years and promoted the computer science researcher and faculty advisor of the Women in Computer Sciences student organization.

The labs at Tech Station, funded by the Florida Board of Governors, provide faculty with the perfect opportunity to transform their teaching practices by offering hands-on activities that truly prepare students for future workforce needs.

“The FIU team did an incredible job of creating an authentic and resourceful atmosphere that STEM students can thrive in,” said Shahrine Islam, one of the Girls Who Code teacher assistants. “The Tech Station was designed with every detail in mind. Students can pick a variety of settings based on their needs. They can tinker in the ‘garage’ or plan up a storm in the team rooms. This allows the students to get a sense of what a creative environment should look like in the outside world. The decor is modern and inspirational.”

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– School of Computing and Information Sciences