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UWF to address shortage of women in STEM fields with program for elementary students

University of West Florida | news@uwf.edu

The University of West Florida Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering now offers Code and Tech Stars, CaTS, a free, semimonthly program on the Pensacola campus to encourage interest among fourth through sixth grade females in science, technology, engineering and math.

Offered at 10 a.m. on the first and third Saturday of each month, each CaTS session lasts one hour. Dr. Brian Eddy, UWF computer science professor, and his wife, Adrienne Eddy, devise a variety of activities that participants complete from week to week, including creating games, animated stories and programmed art. She teaches the classes, while he helps facilitate, manages volunteers and works one-on-one with the students. No prior coding experience is necessary.

“CaTS is an opportunity to break down the stereotypical perception that computer science and programming are difficult and boring subjects,” Dr. Brian Eddy said. “We use games, stories and art to show that computer science is not a limited subject. It is fun and exciting, open to multiple possibilities and open to all who want to participate.”

According to the National Science Board Science and Engineering Indicators 2016 report, women earned 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees in all fields in 2013 and 50 percent of science and engineering bachelor’s degrees. However, women’s participation in science and engineering at the undergraduate level significantly differs by specific field of study. While women receive more than half of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the biological sciences, they receive far fewer in computer sciences (17.9 percent), engineering (19.3 percent), physical sciences (39 percent) and mathematics (43.1 percent).

“STEM outreach is central to the educational mission for the faculty, staff and students in the Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering,” said Dr. Michael Huggins, dean of HMCSE.  “Nationally, there are not enough women pursuing careers in STEM – computer science and engineering in particular. Through programs of this type, we hope to help address this national issue.”

Valerie Taylor, youth education assistant director in the UWF Distance and Continuing Education Department, said CaTS began in January, and nearly 40 girls have participated to date. The projects created each week stand alone, enabling students to skip weeks or join at any time during the spring or fall semesters. All computers, robots, and equipment are provided during the class. Registration is required.

“The students have really enjoyed it,” Taylor said. “Some attend every single week, and others come when they have time. One parent told me that her daughter wanted to code all day after she came to CaTS.”

For more information about CaTS, visit uwf.edu/cse. To register, contact Valerie Taylor at 850.474.3221 or vtaylor@uwf.edu.

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