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UC Santa Cruz to expand successful Girls in Engineering program

(Contributed)
Special for Santa Cruz Tech Beat

November 22, 2019 — Santa Cruz, CA

Women are still drastically underrepresented in computing careers. The Girls in Engineering program aims to help remedy this disproportion and bring a more balanced perspective to engineering and computing.


The Baskin School of Engineering at UC Santa Cruz announced that it plans to significantly expand the Girls in Engineering (GiE) program, a week-long summer program for 7th and 8th grade girls designed to encourage young women to get and stay interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Starting in 2020, Baskin Engineering hopes to increase the size of the program from approximately 50 girls per summer to 200 girls per summer and expand geographically to include disadvantaged communities in the Bay Area.

“Our vision is to expand GiE’s capacity significantly, to address unmet demand from our current service area, and to address growing demand from underserved communities in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties,” said Alexandria Leckliter, GiE’s Program Director at the Educational Partnership Center.

Looker and Amazon have recently committed to supporting this effort. Funding from these new sponsors is a significant step toward expanding the program.

For thirteen years, Girls in Engineering has introduced middle-school girls to a broad range of computer science and engineering activities during a five-day camp at Baskin Engineering on the UC Santa Cruz campus. Girls learn tangible skills at the camp, including scratch programming to create 2D games and animation, and Lego NXT for programming microprocessor-based robots and interactive art pieces. They also explore the UCSC campus and engineering laboratories, and learn about careers in engineering and the educational opportunities available to them. By sparking a lifelong interest in engineering, GiE hopes to keep girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs throughout their educational experience.

The GiE program is entirely free for participants and is fully supported by philanthropy. It serves low-income students from the predominantly agricultural areas of Watsonville, Salinas, Castroville, Gonzales, and Santa Cruz.

As part of the expanded effort, the team also plans to create a network of GiE alumnae who will support one another and provide mentorship opportunities during the program and beyond, as well as foster a culture of continuous improvement by establishing a robust practice of feedback assessment. For many girls, GiE is the first step in a continuum of STEM enrichment and college preparation programs offered by UCSC’s Educational Partnership Center. The program seeks to further extend GiE’s reach and impact by connecting GIE alumnae to these additional support programs throughout high school.

Nearly 600 girls have participated in the program, including 61 in 2019, 90 percent of whom were from underrepresented populations. It has had a lasting impact on many participants. For example, GiE alumna Beatriz Collazo went on to study bioengineering at Stanford University, and is now building medical devices at Duke Empirical. Another GiE alumna, Aleida Diaz Roque, is currently enrolled at the Baskin School of Engineering, and planning a career in health-related technologies. Gaby, an alumna of the original GiE cohort, is now a 3rd grade teacher at Henry F. Kammann Elementary in Salinas, and inspires her students with the same engineering and robotics kits she used during her summer at GiE.

Women are still drastically underrepresented in computing careers as compared to their proportion of the general population (Ashcraft et al., 2012). The Girls in Engineering program aims to help remedy this disproportion and bring a more balanced perspective to engineering and computing. The struggle to create and maintain a robust pipeline of women in computation begins early; middle school is a time when many girls lose interest and confidence in pursuing technical education and careers (Denner, 2011). GiE focuses on this pivotal time in a student’s academic career, when reinforcement in computer science education is most needed.

For more information about Girls in Engineering, visit: https://gie.soe.ucsc.edu/

Girls in Engineering is currently seeking additional sponsorships in order to meet the strong need for the program in Santa Cruz and surrounding communities. For information about supporting GiE, please contact Roger Trippel, Senior Director of Development at Baskin School of Engineering, at rtrippel@ucsc.edu

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