High School Girls Embrace Technology Through Creative Summer Internship

July 9, 2002

Note to Editors: The "Girls Embrace Technology" internship runs Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., through July 25 in the Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory. The ITL Laboratory is part of the Engineering Center Complex at Colorado Avenue and Regent Drive in Boulder. For a more detailed schedule or location information call (303) 492-7426.

Thirty-seven Boulder area high school girls are developing their interest in technology through a six-week paid internship offered this summer for the first time by the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The pilot program, called "Girls Embrace Technology," gives teen-age girls the opportunity to learn about physics, engineering design and computer software development, while creating multimedia software that will be used later by elementary-level students and teachers. The girls are paid a $75 per week stipend for the part-time internship.

The internship was conceived by Jackie Sullivan, co-director of the Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory, which has been named a "Program of Excellence" by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, in collaboration with CU-Boulder's Women in Engineering Program and the Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society. The Xcel Energy Foundation and CU-Boulder Outreach Committee also provided financial support.

"The goal is to introduce high school girls in a hands-on way to the creative applications of technology, which are also beneficial in addressing real-world needs," said Sullivan. "Software developed by women to satisfy the interests of girls and women is sorely missing from the marketplace. We hope to introduce girls to the creative software development process as a means to inspire them to pursue applications of technology and digital graphics while in high school."

While encouraging the interest of girls in engineering and technology fields, the internship also will enhance the ITL Laboratory's outreach exhibits for thousands of K-12 students who visit the facility each year.

The internship will create new interactive software aimed at helping third- through fifth-grade students to understand the physical principles involved in "Pythagorean Fantasy," a popular, Rube Goldberg style exhibit, also known as the ball machine. The interactive exhibit uses the movement of balls, which can be manipulated to loop, spiral and bounce along an extensive track, to demonstrate principles of dynamic motion.

The Girls Embrace Technology internship began the week of June 17 with the girls learning to work in teams, exploring physics phenomena and designing a multimedia-based component of an elementary-level science curriculum. The interns then went on to plan their projects and learn to use a variety of digital graphic and audio software tools. The last three weeks of the internship will be used to develop and test their multimedia software, with final group presentations to be made on July 25.

Mechanical engineering instructor Derek Reamon, who is leading the internship with assistance from four undergraduate female mentors, said he hopes it will help girls who are already involved in advanced math or science classes to "stay on track" for careers in engineering, math or science.

"A lot of girls start dropping out of these classes during high school, and then when they get to college, engineering or science is no longer an option for them," Reamon said.

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