Wrapping up the second year of partnership between the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center, Girls Who Code and the AOL Charitable Foundation, the ASRC hosted the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Graduation Ceremony on Thursday, August 18, welcoming nearly 60 friends and family to celebrate the participants’ achievement.
Girls Who Code—a national non-profit organization aiming to close the gender gap in technology—educates high school girls on computer science through real-world projects, including robotics, video games, website development and others. The computer summer immersion program hosted at the ASRC—which welcomed 19 high school students from the New York Metro—was one of 78 programs nationwide, comprising 1,560 participants overall.
To culminate the seven-week program hosted at the ASRC, the immersion program participants showcased the work they completed over the course of the summer, presenting product pitches ranging from computer games to help combat bullying to apps that allow users to find events and things to do, regardless of income bracket. The five teams gave brief presentations to the audience and then gave working demonstrations after the program.
Throughout the summer’s program, the participants engaged with industry leaders brought in by the ASRC and AOL Inc. to speak on the wide array of opportunities in STEM. Speakers included Lauren Bloch, Chief of Staff of Human Resources at AOL, who spoke on her career experience in tech; Tori Marlin of BBG Ventures, who described how to make an investor pitch for venture capital; and Dr. Anthony D. Cak, Associate Director of the ASRC’s Environmental Sciences Initiative, a self-taught coder, who shared how computer science was integral to the research he conducted in the Amazon for his PhD dissertation.
In addition to the speakers, the attendees took field trips to AOL’s headquarters for Future Builders Day and to check out its Virtual Reality lab, as well as Datakind, a group that provides analytical data for mission-driven organizations.
A highlight of the 2016 program was the participation of Dana Solitaire, a graduate of the 2015 Summer Immersion Program hosted by the ASRC, as a teaching assistant for this year’s program. Solitaire will be attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY this fall, where she will be studying computer science on a M.A. track. She said her experience with the program last year was invaluable for aiding this year’s group through the summer.
“The students this year looked up to me because I was literally in their shoes last year,” Solitaire said. “When I participated last year, I came in with a bit of experience with coding and so I would help out some of the other students when they would get frustrated or things weren’t working the way they expected. It was great to take that experience and to help this year’s students overcome their frustrations that also come when you’re writing code.”
She has followed up on her final project from last year’s Summer Immersion program, an app called Poopstop that will help visitors and residents of New York City find the nearest available restroom. After speaking with employees at tech start-up Uber last year, she said she and the other programmers are seeking ways to monetize the app, including a subscription-based service that would provide discounts in addition to usage of facilities.
The program is funded by a grant provided by AOL Charitable Foundation. In addition, AOL Inc. provided additional support by loaning laptops for the students and teachers. The program is free for participants, and no prior coding experience is necessary.
The City University of New York’s Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) is a University-wide venture that elevates CUNY’s legacy of scientific research and education through initiatives in five distinctive, but increasingly interconnected disciplines: Nanoscience, Photonics, Structural Biology, Neuroscience and Environmental Sciences. The center is designed to promote a unique, interdisciplinary research culture with researchers from each of the initiatives working side by side in the ASRC’s core facilities, sharing equipment that is among the most advanced available.
Girls Who Code is a national non-profit organization working to close the gender gap in technology. Through its Summer Immersion Program and Girls Who Code Clubs, the organization is leading the movement to inspire, educate, and equip young women with the computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities. Additional information is available at www.girlswhocode.com.
The AOL Charitable Foundation is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization funded by AOL Inc. Established in 2014, the Foundation improves lives of women, girls and underserved youth around the world by increasing access to education and technology, fostering leadership and cultivating creativity. The Foundation partners with game-changing organizations like Girls Who Code, The UN Foundation and the NYC Foundation for Computer Science and strengthens the impact of grants with AOL’s leadership, technology and talent across the globe.