Girls from high school smiling while participating STEM activitiesUNT’s College of Engineering recently received a grant from the Texas Women’s Foundation to create and expand outreach efforts aimed at increasing the number of women in computer science and engineering.

The $30,000 funding will be put towards multiple initiatives, including UNT STEM@thePark, DEE-UNTApp Camp, a train-the-trainer online program and Latina STEM teacher-led after school programs. Nandika D’Souza, associate dean for undergraduate studies, and Stephanie Ludi, a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, are leading the efforts.

“There are a lot of very interesting challenges out there, and we’re not going to be able to really solve them unless we have more diversity,” said Ludi. “Part of that diversity is getting young women involved and seeing not only what their potential is through their technical skills but also seeing what they can bring to the challenge through their creativity and initiative.”

UNT STEM@thePark is an outreach event hosted by UNT’s College of Engineering at Discovery Park that engages K-12 students in engineering design experiences. DEE-UNTApp Camp is a STEM camp focused on computational thinking, programming and the engineering process for developing mobile apps. Both the UNT STEM@thePark and DEE-UNTApp Camp occur each fall and spring.

“The idea behind DEE-UNTApp Camp is to teach students how to create, design and engineer apps,” said Ludi. “The nice thing is that these kids are very good consumers of apps and use a lot of them on their phones all the time, so the camp really shows the students how to integrate creativity into engineering and problem solve issues that may arise in the process of designing, coding and testing something they’ve created.”

The online training modules will take on a train-the-trainer model for College of Engineering students, K-12 teachers and parents. The students will be able to use the modules to brush up on the concepts and help educate K-12 students who attend the DEE-UNTApp Camp. Teachers will be able to bring the skills learned back to their classrooms and lead after school STEM programs, including programs geared towards young Latina students; and parents who are involved in organizations like the Girl Scouts will be able to provide the material to their respective organizations.

“By offering the online training modules, we’ll be able make engineering more accessible to a larger number of girls in North Texas,” said D’Souza. “The training not only engages teachers and parents in STEM, but also provides a leadership development opportunity for our undergraduate and graduate students who participate in the program. Overall, the training modules will help us further the efforts we’re already doing in person with our camps.”