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The twelfth annual First Bytes Summer Camp, sponsored by UTCS, kicked off on June 15th on the university campus. The free weeklong camp showcases the potential of a career in technology to selected Texas high school girls.

Campers attended presentations on subjects such as mobile app development, computer vision, game development, computer security, computational neuroscience, 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. VMWare hosted a coding challenge, and there were tours of the Visualization lab, and a Virtual Reality lab.

The campers also had ample opportunity for hands-on learning. They participated in programming a game in Scratch and setting up and programming on a Raspberry Pi, and disassembled computers (Tool Time) . 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 to learn about how data is managed in the healthcare industry; VMware to learn about cloud computing and participate in traversing a maze (blindfolded) by following simple instructions (as you would in a computer program); FreeScale to view the semiconductor fabrication rooms. This year’s lab project used Arduino hardware, an open-source electronics prototyping platform, to control a strand of programmable color changing LED lights. Campers first complete a C++ tutorial and programmed in a language similar to C++ to blink the lights and control their color and brightness. By the end of the week, they progressed to creating complicated moving light patterns set to their team's song of choice.

Campers enjoyed campus life and had a taste of what it’s like to be a UTCS student. Associate Director of Academics Tiffany Grady talked to the girls about earning a degree in computer science, getting into UT, dual majors, scholarships, and career opportunities for UTCS graduates. They had a pool party at UT RecSports, went to Underground Bowling, shopped on the drag, went to a star viewing at RLM, practiced yoga, went running, and took a UT Tower Tour. There was even time for a Friday night celebration of the completion of Project Illuminate.

Sponsors, including the CIA, Freescale Foundation, FireEye, Lockheed Martin, Texas Film Commission, Texas Workforce, Commission Summer Merit Program, and VMware, pay all expenses for camp attendees. 

First Bytes Camp would not be possible the without the contribution of individuals and companies that participate in the numerous presentations, labs, and workshops throughout the weeklong camp: Professor Dana Ballard, Marjorie Morales, Dr. Alison Norman, Scott Sutcliffe, Google, Lockheed Martin, St. David’s Texas Institute for Robotic Surgery, Kristen Grauman, Mike Scott, Sarah Abraham (UTCS grad student), Jonathan Pillow (Computational Neuroscience).

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