Girl Empowerment and Mentoring (GEM)

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This is the second in a series of blogs contributed by winners of the NCWIT Academic Alliance Seed Fund, a Microsoft-funded initiative that awards up to $15,000 to innovative programs that recruit and retain women students in post-secondary computing departments. Read more about the Seed Fund here.

Greetings from the 2nd-annual Girl Empowerment and Mentoring for Computing (GEM) project here at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln (UNL)!  The GEM project is designed to inspire middle- and high-school girls to study computing at the college level. These girls enter the GEM contest by submitting a design for the use of computing in the "real world"; women students from the UNL Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department act as big sister "mentors", and CSE faculty act as contest judges.  The winning team members are eligible for scholarships to study computing at UNL.

This year the GEM project has 40 participants from secondary schools, in eight teams, with six mentors.  Each GEM team works on a collaborative wiki essay, and this year's topics include mobile technologies, entertainment technologies, medical technoloies, Wii systems, cloning, educational/instructional technologies, forensic technolgoies, and sensors for human-computer interaction. Our kick-off reception last November welcomed more than 100 guests, including participants and their parents and siblings.  Since  then, several  teams have engaged in active online discussions, writing, and meeting with our mentors.  We also have revamped the GEM website at http://cse.unl.edu/gem. 

The GEM contest deadline is April 1, 2010.  An award ceremony and reception will let us celebrate the winners and their computing inspiration and achievements!

Leen-Kiat Soh is Principal Investigator of the GEM project and Associate Professor in the Computer Science and Engineering department at UNL.