Google Ignite Grant Computer Science Camp Gives Girls Glimpse into Cybersecurity
After shadowing the Ignite program at Google headquarters last summer, Howard Community College (HCC) entrepreneurial student Amran Hassan knew she wanted to introduce girls to the cybersecurity world – and teach them they belong in it.
When she returned to HCC in the fall, she put together a team, made a plan, and signed up for a grant from Google to fund a computer science boot camp for middle school girls. HCC received the grant, and Hassan quickly got to work.
It took months of work to implement a week-long camp, but with the help of her team – Girls Innovating Tech – it came to fruition.
The free boot camp was held this summer on campus, and drew 14 middle school girls. The students learned programming by using a Raspberri Pi, a credit card-sized computer originally designed for education. They learned about computer hardware and networking, how to code, and even made their own memes. But, the PC build was the biggest hit.
“We had the girls take apart a computer and put it back together by themselves,” Hassan said. “They loved the challenge, and all rose to the occasion.”
Some of the students had a background in cybersecurity, while others had previously never cared about it. Camp changed everything.
“Together they were solving problems, creating friendships, and learning from one another,” she said. “Besides the topics they were explicitly taught, they learned to think outside the box. They learned how to speak publicly and with confidence. They learned to encourage one another, and the value of supporting your fellow sister.”
It’s important to have camps like this for middle school girls, said HCC alumna Ayesha Raza, who acted as assistant director and camp counselor.
“It is really important for them as this is their growing age, and they are open to different ideas,” she said. “It’s a whole new world for them. They got to know there are new opportunities available for them in the workplace.”
Aisha Arain, 13, said she was willing to try the camp, but wasn’t sure what to expect. After her first day, she couldn’t wait to come back. Her favorite parts were taking apart a computer and building a website.
“The counselors are fun,” she said. “The camp is interesting and cool.”
Amina Walcott, 11, also enjoyed making a website – and making memes. She said she would definitely recommend the camp to other middle school girls.
Raza said the children were very happy and wanted to go to more camps like Google Ignite. The parents were especially interested in future cybersecurity camps for their girls.
Girls Innovating Tech plans to keep their mission of bringing cybersecurity to girls and helping close the gender gap in the industry.
“We’ll continue to work with HCC and the community,” Amran said. “We’re really thankful for everything HCC has done for us, and all those who helped us execute such a rewarding program.”