GREEN BAY – Eleven-year-olds Brennan Hagedorn and Alex White click, drag and drop pink doohickeys across their screens onto green whatchamacallits.They’re in a classroom at the YWCA Greater Green Bay, where tiny lights on their round, palm-sized Adafruit circuit boards light up.The girls seem to know what they’re doing – unlike one-third of the adults in the room.For the day, they’re TechGYRLS, and this is part of the TechGYRLS-S.T.E.A.M. Experience Series.TechGYRLS is a national YWCA program that gives girls in grades 3-8 a peek at technology fields. S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) is Greater Green Bay’s addition to the national program.Hagedorn and White are learning maneuvers that cause the circuit boards to beep, light up or play a fragment of a tune.But they’re also learning they can be computer scientists if they want.“All it takes is passion and the ability to stick with it,” their instructor, Amy Bires, a member of the Women in Technology Wisconsin board of directors, said.
Bires is regional manager of Microsoft’s Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS).
She said the percentage of girls interested in computer science diminishes after elementary school, and by high school, it’s minimal.
Despite the ‘tech’ in its name, the TechGYRLS-S.T.E.A.M. program isn’t limited to computer technology.
Other opportunities this year included learning about space at the Neville Public Museum’s space station, dissecting a sheep’s eyeball at UW-Green Bay, identifying plants at the Green Bay Botanical Garden, and creating a mixed-media self portrait at Art Garage.
Other groups the YWCA partnered with include North Coast Marine Manufacturing Alliance, Weidner Center, and CESA 7’s CSTEY (Computer Science Talent Ecosystem Youth) program.