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Girls Only

It was "Girls Only" at TR:TechReady's first summer coding camp of 2019, highlighted-- literally-- by a wearable technology fashion show.

Funded by the second year of a grant from the Office of Naval Research, nearly 30 young women from Toms River Regional’s secondary schools were introduced to computer science (CS) through personalized hands-on projects at a camp run July 15-18, 2019 at Toms River High School North. Students created wearable technology by coding microcontrollers to light up LEDs using conductive thread. Teachers learned and created alongside them.

Girls CodeCamp was the first of seven tech camps offered for free this summer in an initiative the district has titled “TR:TechReady.” The program’s mission is to foster greater interest in computer science as a career and to help students see the value in the integration of STEM concepts across multiple disciplines, including art, civics, and health. Computer science careers are among the most lucrative and accessible, but data shows that only 20% of IT positions are held by women, who account for only 18% of computer science degree graduates. 

Toms River’s TechReady approach has been recognized and in many ways duplicated across the state, by using a problem-based approach with real world applications, cross-curricular connections, and students and teachers working together. The original grant application amounted to more than $763,000 over three years. It began last year at the high school level and this year expands to the intermediates. Funds are used to purchase equipment and materials, train staff, and develop experiences for students throughout the year, with the overall goal of increasing CS offerings in the curriculum.

Starting with paper and pencil, students utilized an engineering design process to plan their fashion aesthetic with function and purpose. Girls storyboarded their plans to align with the Arduino/C++ code they were using to control the patterns of outputs, which included sound and lights, as well as proximity and temperature sensors. Student projects ran the gamut from programming lights on a t-shirt to communicating by morse code to whole outfits with lights embedded in skirts and tops. One group prepared for a national cosplay convention and created designs based on their fashion icons.

On the last day of camp students presented their work to special guests, mentors, and TechReady partners. These included Board Member Anna Polozzo; Hemant Ramachandra, a supporter of Women In Technology Initiatives; and Bobby Samuel and Gaetan Mangano from NAVAIR in Lakehurst. The guests provided students with career insights and connections to community and national resources with the hope that a unique four-day experience might grow into a lifelong passion.

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