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STC And GEAR UP Partner for Annual Coding Camp for Girls

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South Texas College’s Computer Science Department together with Region One Education Service Center’s GEAR UP welcomed more than 50 students from rural school districts to a coding camp designed to introduce them to basic and advanced computer science concepts. STC Image
South Texas College’s Computer Science Department together with Region One Education Service Center’s GEAR UP welcomed more than 50 students from rural school districts to a coding camp designed to introduce them to basic and advanced computer science concepts. STC Image
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By Joey Gomez

McALLEN, Texas – Computer coding camps funded by Region One Education Service Center grants, in partnership with the Computer Science department at South Texas College, are introducing students from across the Rio Grande Valley to basic as well as advanced computer science concepts through intensive computer programming camps.

STC Image

Recently, more than 50 girls from rural school districts were introduced to the cyber world through girls-only coding camps, even though everyone was welcomed, thanks to Region One’s GEAR UP: Ready, Career Set! and Pathways to the Future! program and STC.

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The Computer Science department at STC together with Region One’s GEAR UP: Ready, Career Set! and Pathway to the Future! are opening up new cyber worlds for young students, through intensive computer programming camps recently hosted at the college’s Pecan Campus.

GEAR UP refers to Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), a seven-year program created through the United States Department of Education designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. The program begins in seventh grade and follows the cohort through high school.

The goal, according to camp coordinators, was to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education among girls at an early age.

“What it all comes down to is that when we look around at what’s going on today in the world, everybody’s connected. We’re all connected to the digital world from our homes or smart homes to walking around with our cell phones all day to our watches or tablets,” said Ernesto Gonzalez, STEM specialist with Region One’s GEAR UP College Ready, Career Set grant, and a former adjunct professor with STC. “Getting students interested in computer science, getting them interested in IT, I mean it really is preparing them for the real world of today because everywhere you look, no matter what field you go into, they have computer systems. They have information. I feel this a great benefit for students.”

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At the camp, middle school students from McAllen High School, San Perlita and San Isidro school districts were introduced to high-level visual programming using Scratch, an educational website tool developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab.

While those in the high school-level class utilized Tinkercad, a web app for 3D design, electronics and coding used by millions globally.

For STC faculty, the idea was to introduce students to the college as well as bring them in to see its facilities and introduce them to computer programming.

“It’s a very introductory type of programing. You know, but they’re going to learn very basic introductory concepts on that. But as soon as they get this, they can utilize this later on, maybe even proceed to enrolling in related a college course or they look for a computer science degree,” said STC  Computer and Information Technologies faculty Gabriel Viera. “They will be able to utilize what they learn and apply it. And once they take an actual course and work on an actual degree related to programming, they’re going to realize that, and they’ll be able to grow upon that.”

McHi student Shantellela Vergne, 14, said she did not hesitate to take the opportunity to learn about coding even though she is already looking at future career in cardiology.

“This is all about STEM, specifically about coding, and with my future career, I’m hoping that the coding part of it helps me see what I will be working with in the future,” Vergne said. “As technology advances, it’s obvious that we are getting more and more dependent on it, so learning how to use it is going be a big deal in the future.”

For more information about STC’s Computer Information program visit bachelors.southtexascollege.edu/cit/.

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