Harnessing Hacking: Inspiring Girls to get Creative with Computing

Girls working together

The term “hacking” has, over time, had many different interpretations. Most recently, it has been associated with an emerging movement of creative technological design celebrating ingenuity, appropriation, and repurposing, a blend of hardware and software design practices that adopt and adapt systems and components to new ends their originators might never have imagined.

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Such problem-based and construction-oriented approaches to science and technology can reach and engage new audiences. We at the University of California at Irvine Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences have been developing and conducting workshops for introducing girls to digital media through crafts-style physical computing. Girls get to “play engineer” by rotating through four roles each class period and wearing a button that says who they are and the great things they can do. Through this effort, we are examining the role that ubiquitous and tangible computing education can play in harnessing creative practices to broaden participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Multi-level mentoring includes professors working with college students working with high school students working with middle school girls.  We are all there together as a team, figuring things out.  Everyone has someone they can learn from and everyone has someone to mentor. In this way, we are able not only to introduce girls to technology but also to reinforce the interest of all teenagers and young adults. 

 For more information, please contact Gillian Hayes, see the project website, or watch us on YouTube. Special thanks to Barb Erickson for her guidance on this project as well as to Microsoft Research, NCWIT, and Google for their support.  And of course, thanks so much to Girls Inc, Sarah Drislane, and the ladies of WICS for their continued hard work!

Gillian Hayes is Assistant Professor in Informatics in the School of Information and Computer Sciences at UC Irvine. Gabriela Marcu will present this work at SIGCSE 2010.

Marcu, G., Kaufman, S.J., Lee J.K., Black, R.W., Dourish, P., Hayes, G.R., Richardson, D.J.  Design and Evaluation of a Computer Science and Engineering Course for Middle School Girls.  Proc SIGCSE 2010.