Wednesday, 9 April 2008

How to Convince Girls that Computer Science is Cool?

The number of woman starting a computer science degree in German is very low and this has been recognized on many levels as we (as an economy) loose at lot of potential. This problem can be found in many other countries. Leah Buechley suggested in her paper the LilyPad Ardunio [1] this issues by getting girls in building interactive electronics – as part of self-created fashion items. The idea of targeting technologies, so that they become attractive to girls – especially already in school – seems a promising approach to change the perception of what computer science means.

They use a microcontroller that can be sewn onto fabric and which can be connected to sensors, controls and actuators. The girls used them in a creative way to make interactive fashion, which they considered cool. Her course offered to young people aged 10-15 attracted about 90% girls (as far as I remember) – which is really impressive. I would be interested if a similar approach would work in Germany as well. Perhaps this could be an interesting project?

[1] Buechley, L., Eisenberg, M., Catchen, J., and Crockett, A. 2008. The LilyPad Arduino: using computational textiles to investigate engagement, aesthetics, and diversity in computer science education. In Proceeding of the Twenty-Sixth Annual SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Florence, Italy, April 05 - 10, 2008). CHI '08. ACM, New York, NY, 423-432. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1357054.1357123

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