SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Each year, there are more than 500,000 computer science jobs posted but only 43,000 Americans graduate with a Computer Science degree annualy. Tech giants like Google, Facebook and Apple hire people from overseas to meet their demands for qualified tech workers through the H1B visa program and others. Clearly the domestic interest in Computer Science must increase by motivating students at an early age through offerings of additional resources or after-school coding programs.
We spoke with one of such program founders, Alexandra Roumeliotis from The Coding League.
Alexandra Roumeliotis, a 17-year-old high-school senior from San Francisco, California, is working to inspire girls and minorities in computer science through her organization, The Coding League, which hosts engaging workshops across the globe. Her efforts have been recognized by the National Center for Women in Technology, and she has worked to partner with numerous local and national organizations dedicated to improving computer science education.
An early interest that became a passion
Roumeliotis has been an avid programmer since the 6th grade, “In middle school, I would spend my summers in my Dad’s office, where I was surrounded by technology and programming, which is a big reason why I was so inspired to learn to code myself”, says Roumeliotis, “However, not every kid is exposed to an environment like this that can foster interest in computer science. Most girls aren’t actively pushed towards computer science, a rate which is even lower in low-income communities without access to at-home computers and technology.”
She began her efforts to equalize the gender and socio-economic technology gap in 2016, through hosting a technology drive at her high school, with the intention of collecting devices to be redistributed throughout the community to support local non-profit organizations. However, Roumeliotis soon realized that she wanted to take it a step further by working to inspire girls in computer science directly. “I feel like the way computer science is often approached in educational settings is very rigid. I wanted to approach it very creatively, and inspire these girls with the possibilities of what they could create”, she says.
Closing the gender gap in tech
Roumeliotis focuses a lot of her effort on reaching out to girls and minorities who aren’t initially interested in computer science, “ I want to open the door for an interest in computer science by allowing them to experiment through collaboration and creation.” Roumeliotis continues, “My goal is not to teach these kids how to be an expert in Java in a single session, but instead to expose them to the fundamentals behind computer science and a creative and engaging way.”
Roumeliotis confessed her biggest struggle was finding the best way to engage her middle school-aged audience. “I noticed that at first, a lot of the students weren’t engaging with the material, and I knew that there was something that I needed to do. I experimented a few ways, and realized that the kids were most engaged when they were hands-on working and experimenting,” she continues “Last week, we held a Robotics workshop, where we allowed the girls to experiment and play with the robotics kits; by the end of the workshop, the girls were reluctant to leave. I noticed collaboration and a genuine curiosity among the girls, which is what I equate with a successful workshop. This experience taught me to listen and pay attention, as it can offer valuable results.”
“The majority of our workshops have been hosted in extremely urban areas.” says Roumeliotis “However, I want to be able to reach as many kids as possible. We have now initiated an ambassador program, where girls can work to impact youth in their community.”
For 2018, Roumeliotis says she has many more workshops planned. “We are also working on planning a day-long summit in August for middle and high school girls in the San Francisco Bay Area. We are working on partnering with a diverse group of organizations; I think it’s important to incorporate fields of computer science such as robotics and 3D Printing into the computer science exposure to demonstrate that computer science is not just sitting at a computer and typing.”
Although she is going off to college next year, Roumeliotis hopes to continue her work with The Coding League. “I think college will give me the opportunity to meet lots of new amazing people who are willing to help this effort.”
Company Name: Flux.LA
Contact Person: Alejandro Rioja
Address:638 Landfair Ave PH3
City: Los Angeles
Country: United States