James Madison University

D.I.G.I.T.A.L.: Dukes Inspiring Girls Into Technology Across Limits

By: Sandy Jolles
Posted: October 28, 2013

On Saturday, October 26, the Women in Technology (WIT) club hosted the first annual D.I.G.I.T.A.L.: Dukes Inspiring Girls Into Technology Across Limits. This one-day event was held to inspire middle school aged girls who are interested in technology.

This event is funded by the Student Seed Fund Grant from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) and Symantec.

D.I.G.I.T.A.L. invited girls from across the Shenandoah Valley, including Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, Waynesboro and Rockingham and Augusta counties to JMU for this free event. The 32 participants rotated through three concurrent sessions during the day. One of the sessions, Scratch programming, is a simulation and visualization experiment to create animated stories and interactive art. Students also experienced Finch Robots, a rover that teaches a new dimension of robot applications. The third session was called CSUnplugged and introduces concepts such as binary numbers, algorithms, and data networking through games and puzzles - all without using a computer.

The event will feature Kimberly Mahan as the keynote speaker. Currently the CEO of MAXX Potential in Richmond, Mahan spoke about her experiences as a woman in the world of technology and the future of technology. She also demonstrated Google Glass.

Senior Computer Science major and President of WIT, Marissa Halpert conceived D.I.G.I.T.A.L., and notes “there are simply not enough female role models in the world of technology.”

“There are several studies that show middle school age is when girls start to dwindle out of technology,” Halpert said. “You see men leading big corporations, and some young girls don’t think they can do it because there’s more focus on men in this industry. It can be very discouraging with the stereotype of computer scientists.”

Katie LaPira, the Engagement Coordinator for JMU Outreach and Engagement, handled the logistics of the event allowing WIT to focus on planning the content and curriculum. LaPira contacted middle school teachers to identify girls who would benefit from this type of experience.

Halpert hopes the event will spark an interest in a field of work involving science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM).

“Our goal is to inspire these middle school girls to pursue [their] interest in technology and to want to learn more about technology,” Halpert said.


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