The Techno Girls program was started by a former Huntsville High School student six years ago in an effort to get more female students interested in computer science.
In previous years, the program taught coding and other hands-on technology activities in weekly groups for girls from Grades 6-10. This is the first time they will be trying an online program, given the current social distancing mandates from the government.
“Students will be learning how to design a robot from scratch using CAD (Computer Aided Design), electronics, and gear and motor selection,” said Ian McTavish, Huntsville High School robotics and computer science teacher, and founding mentor of the Hoya Robotics team.
When asked about the technology program being designed specifically for girls, McTavish said, “Our goal is to expose students to opportunities and ensure that we level the playing field with respect to gender.”
According to the Research Council of Canada there are still fewer Canadian women than men graduating from STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) university programs. And despite the evidence that more girls receive a high school diploma than boys, fewer girls go on to higher education in STEM areas. In fact, the likelihood of a girl enrolled in Grade 1 in Canada going on to receive a PhD in the sciences or engineering is approximately one in 225, while the odds for a boy are one in 117.
“One of the key reasons I helped start Techno Girls was to ensure my daughter had female role models so she can feel comfortable exploring these areas that still have a higher percentage of males,” said McTavish. Research shows that female students that participate early in technology programs are more likely to declare a major in engineering or computer science. “They’ve found that Grades 6-10 is an ideal age range—and they can easily learn the skills required.”
According to McTavish, past participants in the Techno Girls program have continued their technology path as captain of the Hoya Robotics team, as engineering students at university, and one alumnus is currently working on the autonomous self-driving car project at the University of Waterloo.
“Being involved in First Robotics I’ve seen the impact it has had on students. Our alumni have gone on to engineering and computer science programs, and they have great jobs with our sponsors,” said McTavish.
In order to participate, students need a computer or Chromebook with internet access and a parent/caregiver to join with their Google account. No previous experience is required, as the program will teach all the skills needed.
The Techno Girls virtual program for female students in Grades 6-10 is free. It runs weekly, with online meetings on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3-4 p.m.
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