Make way for some tech-minded ladies

NHTI will host the second annual Girls Technology Day, an initiative of the New Hampshire Department of Education’s Career Development Bureau, on March 19. Last year, demand far outstripped the capacity of the fledgling program, so this year’s event has been expanded to accommodate the 300 girls who are registered to attend.

“In New Hampshire, as in other states, there is a severe shortage of women pursuing technical careers,” says conference chair Mary Laturnau, who works in collaboration with the Career Development Bureau.

Fewer than 2 percent of students pursuing computer science degrees in New Hampshire colleges, for example, are women. Girls Technology Day is one step toward trying to reverse that trend.
Laturnau says that the enthusiasm for the project across the state has been inspiring.

“This has truly been a collaboration of every level of education in New Hampshire,” she said, including high schools, community colleges and universities. The event is funded in part by a Perkins Grant for non-traditional career development, and grants/donations from EPSCoR, PSNH, N.H. Space Consortium-NASA, Admix, People’s United Bank, Red River Theatres, Dyn, Freudenberg, InterOperability Lab, Alexander Technologies, Liberty Mutual Insurance and NHTI-Concord’s Community College.

The group decided to focus on grades 8, 9 and 10, because that is that age at which many young people begin focusing on interests that may ultimately become career paths. Paradoxically, it is also the age at which girls often seem to get “turned off” to math, science and technology. Invitations went out to New Hampshire high schools, but educators were urged not to make the event a mandatory field trip.

“We want girls who want to attend,” says Laturnau.

The girls will break up to attend a series of hands-on workshops exploring various high technology topics. Students will be able to attend four of the available sessions, including:
∎ 3-D Modeling
∎ Careers in Technology
∎ Game Programming with Greenfoot
∎ Inventing Apps for Android Phones
∎ Kodu Game Lab
∎ Making Ethernet Cables 101
∎ VEX Robotics
∎ Measuring Voltages with Digital Multimeters and PC Power Supply Testers
∎ Girl’s Social Media Web Page
∎ Industrial Robotics
∎ Reverse Engineering
∎ Architecture
∎ Networking

The workshops will be led by educators and business leaders from various New Hampshire universities, community colleges and industries.

During their lunch break, the students will attend a technology exhibition in the NHTI gym. Featured exhibitors include several area schools (UNH, UNH Manchester, Manchester Community College and host NHTI), high-tech businesses (BAE, TEC-Ed Concepts, Discovery Center and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard), Society of Manufacturing Engineers and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Despite this year’s expanded program, there were still interested schools that had to be turned away due to lack of capacity. So the organizers are already looking ahead to next year, and the possibility of spreading Girls Technology Day across multiple venues in order to accommodate the intense interest the program has generated. Clearly there are young women out there who are interested in technology, if only they are given the chance to explore the many possibilities open to them.

Author: Keith Testa

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