Since being formed five years ago, the Institute for Personal Robots in Education (IPRE), a joint effort between Bryn Mawr College and Georgia Tech sponsored by the National Science Foundation, has created an entire suite of materials, including textbooks and low-cost robots, for teaching introductory computer science at every level. The bulk of research done at Bryn Mawr has been the development of open source software called Calico that can be used to control robots, and create art, games, and animations while teaching computer science.
This summer, the organization "Girls Who Code" once again used the materials for its eight-week summer program targeted to girls between the ages of 13-17. This is the second year the group has held the program and used the materials as part of its effort to educate and equip teen girls for career opportunities in the fields of technology and engineering. In 2012 the program was held only in New York. This year, programs were held in six cities throughout the U.S. and the group has plans to start Girls Who Code Clubs in schools and organizations nationwide.
Ashley Gavin ’10 designed the Girls Who Code curriculum and Associate Professor Douglas Blank, who developed much of the material and serves as the IPRE director, is an adviser to the group.
"It has been very rewarding to see the materials that we have developed having a positive influence in getting more girls and young women into computing,” says Blank. “But more important, it is wonderful to see Bryn Mawr College women working directly with the next generation of girls so that they can code. They are really making a difference."
In addition to Gavin, a number of other students from Bryn Mawr’s Department of Computer Science, including Elizabeth Fawcett, Asha Habib, and Jenny Chen, have served as instructors, advisers, and curriculum designers for the program since its founding.
IPRE materials were also used this summer when members of Bryn Mawr’s first-ever STEM Posse visited campus and Blank, Hannah Organick ’15 and several other others gave a presentation on the materials at the 2013 Computer Science Teachers Association annual meeting in July.
Bryn Mawr’s Computer Science Department is supported jointly by faculty at both Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges. The department welcomes students who wish to pursue a major in computer science. Additionally, the department also offers a minor in computer science, a concentration in computer science (at Haverford College) and a minor in computational methods (at Bryn Mawr College). The department also strives to facilitate evolving interdisciplinary majors. For example, students can propose a major in cognitive science by combining coursework from computer science and disciplines such as psychology and philosophy. Students can further specialize their majors by selecting elective courses that focus on specific disciplinary tracks or pathways within the discipline. For more information, visit the Department website.