In 2016,  Google reported that only six out of ten schools (K-12) offered at least one computer science class. While there continues to be an upward trend in the number of schools offering these classes, many students still lack exposure to programming. Texas Computer Science is changing that.

Today, Texas Computer Science will launch a HornRaiser campaign to promote diversity initiatives within the department. This campaign will support Texas Computer Science one-week residential summer camps that allow students to experience Texas Computer Science before they even apply to UT.

One of these camps is First Bytes, a program for girls in their junior and senior years of high school. First Bytes aims to dispel myths about computer science and expose young women to a future career in computing. At First Bytes, participants are encouraged to use their problem-solving and reasoning skills to explore a variety of jobs in computer science. They work in collaborative teams, visit research labs, and learn about the newest technologies and innovations.

Jacqueline Gibson, a First Bytes alum, said that First Bytes was a transformative experience that allowed her to create a network of other women in computer science before even starting college. “First Bytes redirected the trajectory of my academic career and my life. Now I have found my passion, and for that I am forever grateful,” Gibson said.

Another camp, Code Longhorn, provides high school students from historically underrepresented groups with exposure to programming concepts, and allows them to practice using computers to solve real world problems. This camp has team-building activities with educational and recreational sessions as well.

Chris Nunes, a Code Longhorn alumni, said that Code Longhorn really helped him discover his passion for technology. He said, “I had the chance to talk to students and professors who could tell me exactly what it was like to study computer science … Seeing these people and seeing the amazing Texas Computer Science facilities really was the biggest factor in drawing me to this field, and I made friends that I still have today.”

Together, these two camps have been successful in inspiring young computer scientists like Gibson and Nunes to join Texas Computer Science, and have helped create a more diverse student body, which is a positive trend. NCWIT reports on a number of studies that indicate that teams that are more diverse show more positive outcomes Texas Computer Science is invested in continuing this trend, even to the extent of asking donors to support its diversity initiatives, like these camps. Currently Texas Computer Science wants to grow capacity for these camps to serve even more students and shape a new generation of computer scientists.

To learn more about the HornRaiser campaign supporting the First Bytes and Code Longhorn camps or to make a donation to this cause, visit: https://hornraiser.utexas.edu/TexasCSSummerCamps.

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