CS KickStart Wants First-Year Women to Succeed in Computer Science

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The second annual CS KickStart took place August 27 – September 1, 2017, on North Campus in the Bob and Betty Beyster Building. CS KickStart is a free week long summer program for incoming first-year students that aims to improve the enrollment and persistence of women in U-M’s computer science program.

The organizers of 2017 program were co-founder Katie Hennells, Rebecca Andrews, Sage Renstorm-Richards, Meghana Somsaale, and Sree Jambunathan. Through the program, they strive to give women a voice in shaping the future of technology, level the playing field in terms of academic and career opportunities, and benefit the field of computer science through the development of a talented and diverse workforce.

During the week, the program organizers facilitated conversations about diversity, helped build a community for the incoming freshmen, taught participants how to program, provided them with campus resources, and showed them the applications of computer science in academia and industry.

The program also included lab tours and research talks from a number of CSE professors, including Walter Lasecki, Jenna Wiens, Jia Deng, Ed Olson, and Rada Mihalcea.

Lecturer Mark Berhob taught an Arduino lab session where students programmed LEDS, and Prof. Reetuparna Das taught a computer architecture lab where she challenged students to take apart old computers and find items like the CPU, memory DIMMs, and graphics.

On Wednesday, August 29th, there was an industry panel that consisted of women engineers from various companies including Google, GE, and Clinc. The panelist offered insights on what it is like to be a woman in technology, and provided advice on how to get jobs in the industry.

The number of women in computer science has steadily declined since the 1980s, and even though the number of women in computer science at Michigan has risen slightly in recent years, there’s still more work that needs to be done to increase enrollments. CS KickStart was created to address some issues that may contribute to the low enrollment of women, including low exposure to CS before attending U-M, being in a competitive and unwelcome environment, and not being able to visualize themselves in a career with computer science.

The organizers addressed these issues during the program, and they provided the participants with the resources, knowledge, and community that will help them succeed in CS.

There were many success stories from the 2016 program, and they are hopeful for the same result from the 2017 program. They plan to continue and expand the program in the coming years.

Below are photos from the 2017 program.

CS KickStart 2016

Posted: September 5, 2017