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Grades K-5 | Technology Skills | App & Robot
Closing The Gender Gap In Computer Science Begins In Kindergarten
August 19, 2017
Original article by Vikas Gupta
In households across America, summer is coming to a close. Backpacks are being filled, pencils sharpened, and there is a sense of anticipation and mixed emotions that come with the start of a school year. For so many of us, kitchens are now teeming with notebooks, lunch boxes, squeaky clean erasers, and packs of blank paper — all full of potential as a new year begins.
As I reflect on the start of the school year, I continue to be in awe of the 22,000 kids who participated in our Wonder League competition last year. In March, USA Today highlighted the more than 5,000 teams from 52 countries that participated in the competition. But we’re especially proud of the percentage of girls who participated — a whopping 44%. And girls didn’t just participate, they dominated! The two grand prize-winning teams were comprised of six girls and one boy.
I recently shared my thoughts about what it will take to close the Gender Gap in computer science in Forbes article that highlighted some troubling statistics about the likelihood of girls to pursue advanced high school coursework or college majors that lead to careers in tech.
I make the case that high school is much too late. By then, teenagers have solidified their interests or settled into social norms that shape the demographics of our workforce.
If we can start earlier to squash gendered social norms. If interest can be piqued early on, and if that interest is nurtured through the teenage years, we can bend the curve on the tech talent pipeline to increase the number of girls who become women in tech.
And the summer is a great time to start. Because it doesn’t take a classroom to foster a love of science. And children are innately curious.
Take first graders Camille Mascarenas and Drew Williams (aka “The Robot Ninja Helpers”), who placed second in this year’s wonder league.
When the competition required them to help their trusty robot Dash rescue an animal habitat on imaginary Bear Byte Island, they wrote code. They sketched out design possibilities. And they chronicled their efforts (including failures) on a blog. They’re already “psyched” to compete again next year.
As an engineer and father of young girls, I have experienced and seen the gender gaps both in access to science opportunities in school and in the representation of women among my colleagues. I know so many parents and colleagues who wish to close these gaps. I believe if we build tools to engage and inspire all elementary school-aged children, we will.
We are working to burst the perception that 5-year-olds are too young to learn something we deem too complex. And we hope robots like Dash and Dot continue to dissolve gender barriers, captivating interest during crucial summer months.
We invite you to join the Wonder League Robotics Competition that is launching now. Parents and teachers alike are invited to form teams of kids, ages 6–8 and 9–12, and enter now. Teams will participate in three rounds of missions over a five-month period to become eligible for a Wonder Workshop sponsored Invitational Round in Spring 2018. Competitors will be asked to design solutions for real-world science and technology challenges by programming Dash & Dot.