This past summer, 75 middle and high school girls from around New York City volunteered a week of their summer break to come to NYSCI and learn valuable digital and entrepreneurial skills while exploring computer science in a fun, creative informal learning environment.

Now in its second year, NYSCI’s Girls in Tech program provides participants with training in computational thinking and app development by challenging them to identify a personally meaningful problem and create a mobile app solution to address the issue. Using the MIT App Inventor platform, participants learn about the design process and fundamental coding skills to produce a prototype of their app.

In each of our three cohorts, participants formed teams based on common interests and collaborated with each other to identify the problem, research existing apps, communicate their ideas into a professional business plan, and produce a working prototype. This year we also implemented a new part of the program that allowed students to prototype their apps on the museum floor in order to obtain visitor feedback during the design process and help them iterate. At the end of each week-long cohort, NYSCI held community student showcase events for students to present their apps to their families, as well as museum staff and visitors who attended the events.

Through this process and their final projects, the young women who participated in Girls in Tech developed and practiced the four main components of computational thinking: decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction and algorithms.

We also enlisted 12 female Explainers from our Science Career Ladder (SCL) youth development program to serve as peer mentors and role models for Girls in Tech participants. Each Explainer was provided training to engage and support program participants in a broad range of computational thinking activities and 21st century skills, such as communication, collaboration and creativity. The young women participating in the program were not only introduced to the SCL, but also encouraged to apply in order to receive additional opportunities for academic enrichment, college readiness and access, and career development in STEM fields.

In addition to providing peer mentors from the SCL, guest speakers were invited to share their life and career experiences with the students. NYSCI was proud to host Lauren States, the former Chief of Technology and Vice President of Strategy and Transformation for IBM’s Software Group Sales Division, and Suma Reddy, Co-Founder/COO of Farmshelf.

The generous support received from BNY Mellon enabled NYSCI to provide this program to empower young women in middle and high school with computer programming skills in an effort to close the gender gap in the tech industry. We thank them for the opportunity to inspire young women in our community.