How Computer Science Encourages Girls to Pursue STEM Careers
Five years ago, I sat in front of my computer with my 7-year-old daughter and completed the Hour of Code. She absolutely loved the idea of typing something and seeing animation as a result. This was the first time she was exposed to computer science and coding.
We spent hours completing various activities online and seeing things move, jump and make sounds. I have always loved technology, so seeing my daughter enjoy it made me proud.
However, after a while, I noticed she didn’t enjoy typing on a computer as much as I did. We were missing a physical component, beyond the visuals on the computer screen.
Then, I saw the trailer for the LEGO Movie and it came to me. I went out, purchased several LEGO sets and told my daughter to think about using the LEGO blocks like she would use “blocks of code” to create something.
I soon realized the LEGOs targeted her spatial thinking, which was sparked by her coding. She wanted something more tangible than typing on a keyboard. Like many of her female classmates, she wanted a more hands-on experience, which students are unfortunately not often afforded. Additionally, nearly all the LEGO sets and coding activities, such as Minecraft, were targeted toward the male student population from their characters to their design colors.
Despite this, my daughter started asking me questions like “Can I be an engineer, architect, or even a programmer?” I emphatically responded “YES” and have always tried to let her know that she can be anything she wants.
During the summer of 2014, I saw a special research institute set of LEGOs that had female scientists focused on STEM careers. To my knowledge, this had never been done by LEGO. I was so excited when I ordered and surprised my daughter with the set. She could hardly contain her excitement either! It reminded me of the first time we sat down to code and her eyes lit up with the joy of learning something new.
Since then, LEGO has released a Women of NASA set (which my daughter told me I had to buy). With my daughter’s continued passion for coding and love of LEGOs, we have started to look at more advanced projects that have both a computer science and a physical, hands-on component.
I am happy to see my daughter interested in STEM careers because of the computer science component. This all started with my daughter learning how to type a few lines of code and now a world of opportunities await her!
Snehal Bhakta (@Snehalstocks) works in the Career and Technical Education Department of Clark County School District (CCSD) in Nevada. Snehal leads CCSD’s Non-Traditional Careers initiative and his exciting work particularly focuses on women and girls in STEM and Technology. Over the last 3 years, he’s had the pleasure and opportunity to lead the school district’s efforts to engage and encourage more young women to consider STEM and Technology career fields. With the help of his daughter, he uses the combination of computer science and physical activities like LEGOs, to inspire, encourage and bring awareness of STEM careers to all girls in CCSD.