This Saturday morning, I volunteered at UT Austin’s Girl Day. This is an event designed to help girls gain enthusiasm for STEM fields in order to hopefully shrink gender disparities in these fields in the future.
My part in this massive event with thousands of attendees and volunteers was fairly simple. I showed visitors a few lines of C++ code they could manipulate, and cheered them on when their edits led to holiday lights attached to an Arduino board changing color.
I left the event happy enough. While volunteering I got to catch up with a favorite professor and a few friends, and I encouraged a few of the attendees to check out websites where they could learn more about coding on their own.
What I realized I missed, however, was the excitement I had when I first became interested in computer science myself. Instead, I let the back of my mind stay filled with the long list of programming assignments I would have to jump to as soon as I got back, and probably ended up focused more on teaching people how to program than why they should learn about it in the first place.
I think this happens to everybody sometimes, no matter how passionate they are about the field they’re in when they start. In these situations, however, it’s important to remember that the way we approach our work sends a message to people who haven’t had the exposure to it that we have. In CS this is particularly important because very few people are given the chance to explore the topics we do.
I have another chance to spread enthusiasm for computer science next weekend when I volunteer for Explore UT (we’ll be teaching the same project there). Before then, I’ll be reflecting on why I joined this program in the first place. Not only will it give more purpose to my homework and studying, but also if I’m not doing it I really can’t expect others to follow in my footsteps.