Girls 4 Science is a non-profit organization that works to provide high-quality educational opportunities in science in the Chicago area for girls ages 10 through 18. This year, Girls 4 Science partnered with the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences (CaMS) at Lewis University to offer two opportunities for girls to learn about Computer Science and Computer Engineering. During the first event, which was held on a Saturday in February, the girls built their own electric motor, created a light show, investigated how solar cells work, programmed a robot, and learned how 3D printers are changing the way we make things.
This summer, fourteen girls from Girls 4 Science returned to Lewis University for an event sponsored by Ingredion and hosted in the CaMS' computer labs. During the event, which was held June 23 - June 26, Dr. Cindy Howard, Dr. Ray Klump, and students Francisco Cano (Computer Science), Alison Cross (Computer Science), Grecia Eqiuhua (Computer Science), Anthony Kurt (Mathematics), taught students how to program in Scratch, how to control motors and lights with computer code, the basics of sorting and searching, how to build web pages in HTML, and video editing. The activities were planned Dr. Howard, who has done tremendous work inspiring more women to pursue careers in Computer Science and Computer Engineering. The culminating activity of the four days was a robot-building exercise. For two days, the girls built their own robot out of arts and crafts supplies. They animated their robots using Hummingbird Kits, which include programmable microcontrollers, motors, LEDs, potentiometers, distance sensors, light sensors, and various other parts. The girls programmed their creations using a programming environment called Snap.
Computer Science is a field enriched by people with a variety of talents and backgrounds. Women have played an extremely important role in advancing the field throughout its history. The first Computer Programmer, Ada Lovelace, was a woman, as was the person credited with building the first compiler, Grace Hopper. Marissa Mayer helped Google refine its search engine and then went on to head Yahoo! Women have played and will continue to play tremendously important roles in this most dynamic of fields. The goal of this program was to help get these young women to start thinking of their opportunities as Computer Scientists.
As they worked on this project, they learned how to think like a programmer to get motors and servos and actuators to move robot limbs in response to things going on in their environment. It was a real treat to watch them work on these projects, and it was even better to see the end result.
Without further ado, here are links to movies of the robots the girls created. (Please be a little patient while they finish loading.)
Alex the Robot (with black leopard)
Despicable Me 2
Elsa (from Frozen)