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Code camp for girls seeks to solve national problem

Lamar University is working to “Change the Equation.” By hosting computer coding/programming camps for girls in middle school, the university hopes ultimately to increase the number of women in science, Code Camptechnology, engineering and math-related careers.

A one-day camp follow-up session was held at the end of February as part of a series of camp follow-up sessions to provide challenging hands-on experiences, and innovative concepts that introduce problem-solving and analytical skills.

“Finding qualified workers, particularly in coding/programming is a national crisis,” said Otilia Urbina, research assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Development at Lamar University. “Our focus in this follow-up session was to provide sixth, seventh and eighth-grade young ladies an opportunity to be exposed to careers that females can pursue in cybersecurity.”

Referencing a National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies published study, Urbina said, “The cybersecurity industry is gender imbalanced, which has some disadvantages.” Urbina said the study also stated that diversity encourages a culture where divergent opinions can be brought together to develop innovative solutions to solve some of the toughest problems our nation faces today. “We know companies are seeking ways to avoid the homogeneity that has defined the sector for so long, and it’s up to us as educators to prepare the workforce,” said Urbina.

Urbina is one of three principal investigators for the Texas Workforce Commission Camp Code for Girls grant for the STEM-related camps. Other investigators include Stefan Andrei, chair and professor of the Department of Computer Science and Sujing Wang, assistant professor, Department of Computer Science. During the event, Andrei taught secure software engineering concepts; Xingya Liu, assistant professor, Department of Computer Science, taught cybersecurity concepts, such as the importance of designing a strong password and awareness when accessing external websites; and Lucy Tsado, assistant professor of criminal justice, Department of Criminal Justice at LU, talked about women in cybersecurity.

For more information about Camp Code for Girls’ future events, contact: Dr. Stefan Andrei by phone at 409.880.8775 or by email at stefan.andrei@lamar.edu.