Thursday, May 2, 2013

Scratchers, Pico Engineers & Career Day Fun

Tuesday morning we hosted a fantastic PicoCrickets session for the fifth grade students of Artesia, NM's Central Elementary School. In total, 39 students built and programmed robots in teams of two to three after a short informational session about computer science. We have done many PicoCricket sessions in the past, but this session was by far the largest we've taught this year. Despite the large size of the group, the students were very attentive and interested in programming so the session flowed smoothly. Overall, the session was a huge success, and the students left with a great experience in computer science.

Scratch Game
Later that night, the Parents and Advocates of Gifted Education (PAGE) were itching for a lesson in computer science, so we gave them Scratch. Scratch is a two-dimensional animation program tailored to young programmers-in-training who are interested in game design and animation. During our session at the Branigan Library, we taught 35 students and 30 parents how to build a simple game involving a crab catching beach balls on a boardwalk. Both parents and students alike enjoyed the easy-to-use interface and variety of customizable features Scratch has to offer. In the end, everyone enjoyed the open-source fun!

Thursday morning we advocated for studying and working in computer science at the Hillrise Elementary School Career Day. We completed four presentations for about 75 fifth grade students; by the end of each presentation they were all excited about computer science. A few of them even wanted to be software engineers and graphic designers. Even the students who wanted to pursue other pathways were interested in learning more about computer science.

On Tuesday alone, we reached out to a total of 74 students, then during Thursday's career day presentations we reached out to another 75 students, bringing our total for the week up to 149 students.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

EYH 2013

On Saturday, April 13, YWiC had the wonderful opportunity to host its second Expanding Your Horizons conference for middle school and high school girls at NMSU. The goal of the conference is to motivate girls to become innovative and creative thinkers ready to meet 21st century challenges.

The conference witnessed the growth of 76 bright, young, technical women at the New Mexico State University campus. Each student participated in 3 of 13 diverse hands-on classroom activities of their choice. Workshops included:
CS Forensics

  • An Engineered Decision: Students learned from industrial engineers how to make the best decision in any situation.
  • Be a Scratcher!: Students were introduced to Scratch, a drag and drop 2D animation program, and learned how to program a simple game. The goal was to give students insight about the field of computer science and teach them basic programming concepts (i.e. loops and user input).
  • CS Forensics: This workshop was a student favorite. It taught students how a crime could be solved by evaluating blood spatter patterns or using a computer software program. 
  • DNA Discovery: This workshop involved chemically extracting the DNA of a strawberry! Students learned how to extract DNA using basic kitchen equipment, and about the chemistry behind DNA and applications of genetics. 
DNA Discovery
  • Engineer Your Future: This workshop focused on how engineers impact our world. NMSU Chemical Engineering students conducted hands-on demonstrations and discussed their career plans and how they chose engineering. 
  • Google SketchUp!: SketchUp is a free modeling tool that can be used to model a city, or even invent a new piece of furniture. By the end of this session students understood the basic tools in SketchUp and were able to design and create a 3D house and robot! 
Google SketchUp
  • Innoventure, STEM+Biz Together: The workshop included activities to spur innovative thinking, build prototypes, and gave some basic information about what it means to start and run your own business. 
  • Movies & Animation on a Ti83: Can movies and math on a calculator really be combined? In this session they were!
  • PicoCricket Robotics: Students programmed their own robot to light up and spin depending on the value from a light sensor. A craft aspect was included into the session so that students could use their creativity to customize their robot with crafts or legos. 
  • Programming with Alice: In this workshop, students developed their own 3-D animations in a fun and interactive environment - Alice. 

Penny Bridges
  • Slime & Penny Bridges: Students were given an overview of the programs available at NMSU's College of Engineering.  Activities included making their own slime and putting on their Civil Engineering hats to build bridges out of pennies. 
  • Sustainability and Engineering: This workshop was all about introducing students to sustainability concepts and their relationship to engineering. Students participated in hands-on activities and made bioplastics into different shapes and tested them. 
  • Website Delight: Students learned how easy it is to create their own website!

The conference also featured a keynote speaker. Dr. Abbey Train, a professor at NMSU and author of "Forbidden Math", gave an awesome speech about overcoming challenges when entering male-dominated fields, especially Math.
Dr. Abbey Train

Until next year...
The conference was a roaring success. Both attendees and instructors were able to effectively learn from each other, and most importantly: have a great time!

For more EYH photos from the conference visit our Google+ page.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Last week was a very busy week for us at YWiC! On the Thursday night several of us went to Onate High School to speak to incoming eighth graders about pursuing degrees in Computer Science. With enthusiasm and go-to attitudes we introduced the budding high schoolers to Computer Science with engaging Alice games (designed by previous YWiC campers) and fun Pico Cricket examples like the banana piano. The students had a blast experimenting with the Pico Crickets, and they all seemed determined to beat the Alice video games. We also answered any Computer Science questions the students and parents had, and encouraged them to take some Computer Science classes during their high school careers. We wanted to make sure the students would see how fun and exciting Computer Science is, and I say: "mission accomplished!"

One of the Alice videos we showed at Onate High

On Saturday we were double booked at NMSU for the Super Computing Challenge interim judging and the New Mexico Network of Women in Science and Engineering meet and greet. Good thing the buildings were right next to each other! We decided to split up in classic Scooby Doo fashion, but rather than looking for clues, we reviewed Super Computing projects and networked with amazing technical women from New Mexico. Those of us who judged the Super Computing Challenge projects had a great time providing feedback and project insight to students who are sure to be the future of CS; we saw some really awesome projects concerning environmental and health issues in New Mexico. After the interim judging was done, we all got back together at the NMNWSE meet and greet for light refreshments and stimulating tech conversation.

Friday, January 25, 2013

YWiC = YWiC + 3;

YWiC is bringing in the new year with three fabulous new members who are all super excited to carry on theYWiC legacy. Susana Bali, Samantha McGuinn, and Noor Muhyi are all previous YWiC campers, YWiC camp assistants, Supercomputing Challenge participants, and New Mexico centennial year graduates. Between this power trio is a combined twelve years of programming experience, three national awards, and countless honors, awards, and scholarships locally. Without further ado, we would like to present the Noobies:

Noor Muhyi - Undergraduate Research Assistant

Noor is a fresh-more majoring in Biology and Computer Science. She was actually a speaker at the first Young Women in Computing camp. Noor attended the camp in Summer 2010 and was a Camp Assistant in Summer 2011. She has recently been hired into the YWiC team as an Undergraduate Research Assistant. She has attended the 2011 and 2012 Grace Hopper Conferences. Noor is a major advocate for C-STEM (Computer Science, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). She has participated in Regional, State, and International Science Fair competitions. In her spare time, Noor enjoys writing poetry, henna art, and reading fantasy novels. Noor is most excited to "work with the wonderful technical women at YWiC, and to pass on my knowledge and experience to the next generation of women in C-STEM fields."

Sam McGuinn- Undergraduate Research Assistant

Sam is an undergraduate at New Mexico State University pursuing a Computer Science degree. She is a recipient of the Presidents Associates Scholarship at New Mexico State, as well as a National Winner of the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing award. She has attended the Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing twice, and is a YWiC camper and research assistant Alumni. Sam is a big advocate for the Super Computing Challenge New Mexico, and will be acting as a project judge this year. In her free time Sam enjoys reading, writing short fiction stories, and watching movies. While discussing YWiC Sam says: "I'm most excited to experience the magic of YWiC once more; as a sophomore in high school YWiC introduced me to computer science, and now I'm pursuing a degree in CS. I want more young girls to be able to discover computer science like I did." 

Susana Bali- Undergraduate Research Assistant

Susana is a Civil Engineering major with a minor in mathematics. She was a camp participant during the 2011 summer camp and a camp assistant during the 2012 summer camp. Susana is involved with the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Aggie Dance Sport club. In her free time she enjoys dance and drawing. Susana says "working with YWiC is a great opportunity to gain experience with teamwork and collaboration, hands-on projects, and community outreach. As a previous participant of the camp, I am very excited to have the chance to help make the experience for new girls be as exciting and enriching as it was for me!"

Here's a photo of the girls together during the 2011 high school summer camp:

We're all gearing up new year at YWiC! You can stay in touch with us through facebookGoogle +, and twitter.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen, Children of All Ages...Welcome to the Circus!

This past weekend, YWiC had the honor of presenting to the Guts y Girls program of Santa Fe, NM. Five YWiC research assistants traveled to the Santa Fe Institute to conduct a PicoCricket workshop to 22 female middle school students. Also in the bunch were eight experienced Guts y Girls mentors.

The YWiC team started by introducing the PicoCricket parts to the students with a detailed slideshow. Students were also introduced to the PicoBlocks IDE, and how it is used to actually program their robotics systems.

Going over PicoCricket parts.
Students using the PicoBlocks program.

After introducing the parts, we got straight to business. The first activity was Magic Lights. The students had to use PicoCricket components such as a light sensor, motor, and an LED light to make the color of the LED light depend on the brightness value that the light sensor detects. For detailed tutorials please click here.

Nicole showing how to make the Catapult.
 After Magic Lights, we taught them a new PicoCricket project called Catapult. The students had to build and program the catapult system to throw a projectile (like a catapult would) after the click of a button, and reset the position of the catapult with another click of the button.

Prior to the workshop, the YWiC assistants built a Circus ground to server as a landscape the students' completed final project. They were asked to work in groups and brainstorm ideas about cool projects that were circus-related.


After deciding on a topic the girls got straight to work! Since we were doing a Circus theme we wanted the girls to incorporate their own creative element so we gave them a large supply of crafts: pipe cleaners, glitter, plastic googley eyes, ribbons, styrofoam balls, etc.

Craft Table.

YWiC was so impressed with these group of girls! They grasped on the concept of block programming and using the hardware to make anything imaginable! The mentors were able to help with student questions and kept each group on track.

Building their projects.
The final product!
Crafts + PicoCrickets = Circus!
The Circus included several projects such as: Clown Car, Acrobats, Popcorn maker, Elephant shows, Swings, Teacup ride, Cotton candy maker, and several more!

Here's a video of a Clown Car a group of girls made!

Overall, we had a blast in Santa Fe! The Guts y Girls were creative, innovative, and very welcoming. They inspired the YWiC assistants with their perseverance and overall interest in C-STEM. It was so much fun teaching them!

Thank you for joining us on the greatest show on earth! 

Want to see more photos from our circus? Click HERE!

Monday, January 7, 2013

2012 in review

Happy New Year! For YWiC the new year comes with new aspirations to inspire and influence more students than the previous year.  Here are some of the highlights from 2012!

Quick Statistics: 2006-2013

  • Since 2006, YWiC has reached over 5,000+ students through roadshows, outreach events, career days, conferences, forums, community meetings, summer camps, competitions, and after-school clubs
  • Participants from YWiC summer camps have matriculated at a rate of 100% from high school to college - 62% have declared a major in a STEM field
  • 87% of YWiC alumni chose to attend New Mexico State University
  • 48% of students reached have identified themselves as Hispanic
  • YWiC has conducted 150+ workshops and sessions, provided 42 weeks of summer camp, funded 30 women to conferences, and sponsored 23 teams in competitions

Expanding Your Horizons Conference

In February, YWiC hosted the first EYH Conference at NMSU. Thirty middle school students, grades 6th - 8th, participated in the Saturday event. The day included a keynote speech by Dr. Patty Lopez from Intel, 10 total workshops (7 options across two time sessions), 18 speakers/presenters, and a Career Panel. The self-identified ethnicity responses reflect that of the 30 attendees, 18 students were Hispanic, 10 students were White, 1 student was African American, and 1 student was American Indian.

NM SuperComputing Challenge

In the 2011-2012 school year, YWiC mentored 3 all-female teams that included 11 high school students and 3 middle school students from both Las Cruces Public Schools and Gadsden Independent School District. Our students did great, and even racked up some awards! The team awards included Best Presentation and Best Team Work. Additionally, 5 of the 6 competing seniors earned scholarship awards ranging from $500-$2000!

NM Chapter of the National Girls Collaborative Project

NMSU/YWiC was chosen to serve as the convening organization for the NM NGCP project. NM is now among the 23 other collaborative projects that facilitate collaboration of organizations. "The vision of NGCP is to bring together organizations throughout the United States that are committed to informing and encouraging girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics" (

High School Summer Camp

The 1st 2012 high school summer camp was held June 4 - 29. 21 female students came to NMSU and enjoyed fun activities, awesome curriculum, and even earned dual-credit enrollment for college. The carefully tailored curriculum included the use of Alice, CS Forensics, LilyPad Arduino, NXT Mindstorm Lego Robotics, AppInventor, 3D Spatial Visualization Training, Core Concepts and CS Unplugged, Teambuilding, and open lab for project work. 

The 2nd high school summer camp was held July 5 - 14, and was a collaborative effort with GUTSyGirls. The curriculum had students learning programming topics through StarLogo TNG, HTML/Website Development, LilyPad Arduino, and NXT Mindstorm Lego Robotics. This was the first camp of it's kind: 12 students participated in this 9-day overnight, residential camp. Sponsors included NSF, NMSU, Santa Fe Institute, Google, UNM, New Mexico Tech, and the Supercomputing Challenge. 

Middle School Summer Camp

The 2012 middle school summer camp was conducted in collaboration with GUTSyGirls. In previous camps, students were introduced to Scratch programming, PicoCricket robotics, Storytelling Alice, and a Wii Smart Board activity. This year, 32 camp participants mastered programming concepts in StarLogo TNG. Each camper completed daily projects that culminated in one large final project for 12 groups.

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

Six YWiC Research Assistants, one YWiC Program Coordinator, three undergraduate students, and one LCPS Representative travelled to Baltimore, MD for the 2012 GHC conference. YWiC presented two posters in the student poster session. We had a blast! To  read more about our experience at GHC read our blogpost HERE.

NM Celebration of Women in Computing / NM Girls Collaborative Kickoff

YWiC and the NMSU CS department were responsible for hosting this fabulous conference. A total of 171 participants made the conference a huge success! Attendees included students, faculty members, researchers, school administrators, counselors, teachers, industry representatives, informal educators, and non-profit affiliates. Additionally, 24 institutions and 8 states were represented. The conference was comprised of great STEM and research talks, a student and profesional panel, and even a PicoCricket workshop!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

NM Celebration of Women in Computing!

Wow! What an amazing Celebration!

YWiC and the Department of Computer Science at NMSU hosted the NM Celebration of Women in Computing Conference, in hand with the NM Girls Collaborative in C-STEM Kickoff conference, and it was AWESOME! There were SO many outstanding women in computing, technology, academia, K-12 informal and formal educators, STUDENTS... what an incredible experience! The final number is 171 attendees over the 2-day event. Now that is what I call INSPIRING!

The Collaboration Celebration (that we have fondly coined the event) boasted 9 research/technology workshops, 4 STEM talks, 2 social/cultural talks, 2 panels and panel discussions, 2 career workshops on resume writing and interview skills...

We learned from truly incredible women who are making big-time contributions to computing and tech and the non-profit world -- thank you, thank you, thank you!!

We networked with fellow undergraduate students, graduate students in CS, middle school students, and high school students, from over 20 schools and institutions!

And we Speed Networked, too! Now that was really incredible...!

We are so grateful to all participants and attendees. YOU made this event a roaring success and we are so happy!!