CompSciConnect: A Computing Camp for Middle School Girls
CompSciConnect: A Computing Camp for Middle School Girls
The Maryland Center for Women in Computing (MCWiC) at the University of Maryland, College Park is pleased to offer Computer Science Connect (CompSciConnect), a summer day camp to encourage middle school girls (as well as boys from underrepresented groups) to explore fields of computer science.
CompSciConnect is designed as a three-year program in which students advance their knowledge and explore new fields of computing each year. Content builds upon knowledge from the previous years. Most students begin in the Yellow group, progress to the Red group, and finally end in the Terp Group.
During the two-week summer program, students learn to program robots, develop in Scratch, create dynamic web pages, and build basic virtual reality games. Students also learn number theory, cybersecurity, logic puzzles, as well as computer use and safety.
Throughout the academic year, students are invited to continue the program during monthly meetings. Interactive presentations are created for family, friends, donors, and the community at the annual CompSciConnect Showcase at the end of the fall semester and at Maryland Day at the end of the spring semester.
CompSciConnect's name invokes the new and exciting connections that students will make to Computer Science, with one another, and to a variety of fields in which computing is a significant part.
CompSciConnect first launched in 2012 with 14 participants. Today over 120 students participate in CompSciConnect each year.
MCWiC Teaching Ambassadors lead camp sessions and provide intelligent, positive, and energetic role models for all participants. This project is supported in part by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA)-Bethesda Chapter. To see CompSciConnect in action, we encourage you to come see students’ projects each April during Maryland Day.
Students typically start immediately after finishing 5th or 6th grade in the Yellow Group. Rising 7th and 8th graders are typically accepted in the Red or Terp group if they have sufficient experience. Each summer students develop more advanced skills and meet once a month through the school year to maintain those skills.
Through the three years, we emphasize how different fields of computing connect to other areas of study and to making the world a better place.
Our decision to gear CompSciConnect to those completing 6th grade was based on the literature that shows that girls in elementary school are as interested in STEM as the boys, but though middle school and high school girls often lose interest.
The goal of this camp is to remove the hurdles and dispel the misconceptions that turn students away from computing by exposing them to a variety of areas within computer science, participating in fun activities around these areas, and showing them the connections to how computing connects to almost every part of our world. By allowing middle school students to see the wide variety of areas within computer science, we hope to keep our camp participants interested in computing by creating a three-year commitment.
- By 2020, there will be 1.4 million jobs in computing outpacing the number of graduates in the field.
- Computing touches every field from biology to education to business.
- Getting an early start on computing skills will help you in the future.
- Computing can change our world for the better.
- It's fun!
Each group is composed of 15-25 students who are around the same age and have similar backgrounds within computing. Every group has a team oriented project as well as individual activities. For two weeks, UMD students teach various curriculum to students in a safe, supportive environment where computing creativity can blossom supported by the proper tools and by people who believe that hands-on exploration leads to learning and more interest.
Days are supplemented with on-campus and off campus field trips. Past trips off campus trips include: NSA's Crypto Museum, the International Spy Museum, Newseum, Smithsonian American History- SPARK Lab, Kid Museum, NASA, and the College Park Airport museum. Past on campus trips include UMD Wind Tunnel, UMD Robotics lab, HCIL lab, and the nano-imaging lab.
Students will learn
- Computational (and algorithmic) thinking is natural and can be learned in fun and exciting ways.
- Computing is ubiquitous in our society.
- Computing has a wide variety of fields of study.
- People in computing come from a wide variety of populations and have a wide variety of interests.
- There are many computer tools and languages available.
- Camaraderie is important – It is great to work with others who share their interests.
- Hands on Activities
- Interactive teaching methods
- Project oriented teamwork
- Field trips
- Visits with Computer Scientists from around the world in person and electronically
Programming projects include:
- Yellow- drag & drop programming with Scratch & robots
- Terp- introduction to object oriented programming & creating virtual reality games using Unity
In addition to programming, the following topics are taught in increasing levels of depth over the three years:
- Applications of computing
- Number systems: binary, octal and hexadecimal - conversions and arithmetic
- Cybersafety & Cybersecurity
- Computing concepts: Internet protocols, algorithms, etc.
- There is a charge of $250 for the two weeks of the summer camp (no additional charge for the meetings during the school year.)
- Applications typically go live in early February and are accepted until the end of March.
- Financial Assistance is available for those with displayed need by completing our Scholarship Application.
- Lunch is not provided, but snacks are provided each day.
- Camp begins each day at 9am and ends at 3:30pm.
- Before and After Care is available for an additional fee ($100). Before care begins at 8:00am and ends at 5:00pm.
- Although the program is designed to be attractive and accessible to female students, male students from underserved populations are encouraged to apply.
- Parents and students are responsible for arranging transportation to and from the University of Maryland and for providing a bag lunch each day.
- Weekend meetings occur one Sunday afternoon each month.
Dates & Links
CompSciConnect was featured on the Big Ten Network's BigLive Series. Watch the YouTube video below.