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Summer of STEM: Choosing the Classroom Over the Beach

On July 7, instead of spending summer at the beach, twenty high school women gathered at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering to partake in an Introduction to Computer Science and Cyber Security Summer Program.

Monday marked the launch of the two-week, tuition-free program sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the National Security Agency, and the School of Engineering. Participating high school women from the New York metropolitan area convened in the Jacobs Academic Building to kick-off the first of two programs.         

Linda Sellie, Industry Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, was beaming with enthusiasm as she interacted with each of the young women. Following an introduction to the program, the women listened to presentations by Nasir Memon, Department Head and Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, and Dan Guido, Hacker in Residence. Both Memon and Guido provided an overview of computers and discussed the various opportunities for women in the field of computer science.

The program participants range in familiarity with computer science. Some of the young women are comfortable with the material, while others are novices. Anokhi Sachdev, a student at Fontbonne Hall Academy in Bay Ridge, notes that participating in the program is her initial exposure to the field of computer science. She says, “It’s something new and different; I’m hoping that this program will allow me to see if computer science is something I really want to pursue.” Mariella Sypa, also a student at Fontbonne, says, “This program is allowing me to explore the field of computer science; I didn’t even know it existed before.” In addition to daily instruction from various members of the School of Engineering faculty, several undergraduate students are also facilitating with the program. Meghan Clark, a junior majoring in computer science, is hoping to spark the participants’ interest in cybersecurity. She excitedly said, “Young girls should become familiar with computer science, after all, it’s not a boy’s world.”

The Introduction to Computer Science and Cyber Security Summer Program aims to introduce young women to computer science in a safe and encouraging learning environment. Exposing the young women to female role models and mentors in computer science, allows the women to view the field as a viable career option. The program is comprised of lectures, hands-on training, and day trips in New York City, to ultimately prepare the young women for participation in the nationwide CSAW High School Cyber Forensics Challenge, hosted annually by the School of Engineering. In addition, the women are provided access to an online-accessible Virtual Lab (VITAL) to facilitate extracurricular and self-learning activities.    

The first program will run from July 7 until July 18, while the second program will run from July 28 until August 8.