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The ninth annual First Bytes Summer Camp, sponsored by UTCS, began on June 19th, 2011 on the university campus. The free week-long camp showcases the potential of a career in technology to selected Texas high school girls.

Campers attended presentations on subjects such as high level/low level programming, computer ethics, cryptography, logic games and gender roles. At Corporate Chat, professional women working in the field of computer science talked with girls over lunch about what it’s like to have a fascinating, well-paying job and provided career mentoring. Lockheed Martin and Sandia Laboratories hosted a coding challenge. In the UTCS AI Lab, the girls watched humanoid robots play soccer and experienced virtual reality.

The campers also had ample opportunity for hands-on learning. They participated in an iPhone app programming challenge, using IPRO, a virtual robotics program designed to teach computational literacy. The girls also learned to program a Windows 7 phone app in a lab hosted by Microsoft. Campers went on a field trip to St. David’s Texas Institute for Robotic Surgery to see how the robotic da Vinci Surgical System works and had a hands-on experience of maneuvering the robotic arms in an operating room. Rivet Software guided the girls through a team building and communication game that involved logical thinking and problem solving. Groups of girls, some blindfolded or not allowed to talk, had to get a ball from point A to point B without dropping it using only a metal ring and a string for each girl. Cisco organized an activity that included brainstorming ways to develop an application to streamline the National Honor Society’s (NHS) credit hours reporting process. Over half the campers are in NHS, which made designing this solution very interesting to them.

Throughout the weeklong camp, the girls worked on a game development challenge. Campers worked in teams using the programming language Scratch from MIT to develop the game "hangman".

Campers enjoyed campus life and had a taste of what it’s like to be a UTCS student. Department advisors talked to the girls about earning a degree in computer science, getting into UT, dual majors, scholarships and career opportunities for UTCS graduates. They bowled at the Underground in the Texas Union, had a pool party, and played wallyball and racquetball at UT RecSports.

Sponsors, including Bazaarvoice, Cisco Systems, Google, Lockheed Martin and the Texas Film Commission, pay all expenses for camp attendees. Google is also funding the annual First Bytes Workshop for Computer Science Teachers held in July.

First Bytes Camp would not be possible the without the participation of individuals and companies that participate in the numerous presentations, labs and workshops throughout the weeklong camp: Tracy Laquey Parker of UTeach, Professor Dana Ballard, Professor Vijaya Ramachandran, Associate Professor Peter Stone, Analytical Graphics, Inc., Bazaarvoice, Cisco Systems, CompassLearningGoogle, KingsIsle Entertainment, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Mumboe, Rivet Software, Sandia Laboratories, St. David’s Texas Institute for Robotic Surgery, and Yahoo!.

For more information visit the First Bytes Web site.

College of Natural Sciences article: First Bytes Camp Introduces Girls to Computer Science in Effort to Close the Gender Gap in Technology 

Video: Young Women Check Out College Technology

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