Department of Computing
GIST Camp 2009
If you strolled into work through the doors facing Gilbreath Hall, you may have seen some very young looking students on campus. You think the students look younger every year, but these kids weren't here for Orientation...
Instead, on June 8th, the Computer and Information Sciences Department's Girls in Science and Technology (GIST) Camp began its ninth year of mentoring fifth and sixth grade girls.
In 2000, Dr. Terry Countermine, Chair of Computer Science, urged Professor Kellie Price and Mary Sullivan to develop a program to encourage young women to explore the scientific and computing world. According to Dr. Countermine, "A lot of research indicates that this age is a good age to try to get girls interested in technology and science - before they have developed the perception that it is only for boys or that they wouldn't be as good at it as boys are."
About thirty local girls came through GIST this summer with Kellie Price, Jessica Keup, and students Sarah Huggins and Christi Ogle leading the way. Most of the activities were the same for both grade levels. Each built 3-D worlds using Alice, made cold cream and lip balm at the College of Pharmacy, and worked with Microsoft's Powerpoint and Word. The fifth grade girls learned about roller coaster physics and botany while the sixth grade girls explored Illustrator, web designing, Movie Maker, and took a lesson from David Tarnoff on computer hardware.
A highlight from this year's camp came from the first week with the 5th grade girls. GIST took the young women to the College of Pharmacy where they weighed and compounded materials with colors and flavors of their choice to make lip balm. Keup, who joined Price in 2008, says, "One of the girls didn't let the lip balm set and she put it on her lips and blue was all over her mouth and teeth. She came in the next day and her lips were still blue. She said her Mom thought it was funny and put some on too."
On June 22, the sixth grade girls arrived to start the second week of GIST. "The second week is my favorite because I get to see some of the girls that came last year." says Huggins. Many of the returning girls talked about how much fun they had the previous year. GIST returner, Anna, says, "I loved this camp so much. Fixing the computer was my favorite part this year. Everything was great, more than I expected."
When asked if she observed any differences in how each camp group reacts to new technology, Price says, "This year we saw that many of them had already used Word and Powerpoint for reports in school...although we showed them how to do a lot of things that they hadn't used in Word and Powerpoint before. Also, many of them are bloggers, have a Facebook or MySpace, and most of them are very familiar with using the Internet. We don't really get them on the Internet, but it is hard to keep them off when they are so used to using it."
What does the future hold for GIST? "I think Alice is fantastic for teaching programming concepts to girls, so I'd like to see that stay in place. Otherwise, adding and trying out different scientific activities and changing the other computer activities as the field evolves." says Keup.