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High school female students excited about IT

MIT programming challenge gets high school female students excited about IT

The Manukau Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Faculty of Business and Information Technology (FOBIT) played host to 48 female students from across Auckland as they competed in the annual Programming Challenge for Girls (PC4G).

The PC4G is a one-day event aimed at introducing junior high school students (Year 10) to computer programming.

PC4G gives female students the opportunity to experience the fun of programming and encourages them to consider IT as a career.

Students from 12 schools took part in the challenge including Sancta Maria College, Green Bay High School, Howick College, Glendowie College, Edgewater College, Mangere College, Tangaroa College, Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate

Senior School, McAuley High School, Botany Downs Secondary School, Marist College and Epsom Girls Grammar.

In teams of two, the students were given a framework to code which they could extend or enhance to any level within a two and a half hour time limit.

The competition utilises the programming software ‘Alice’ because it is engaging and educational with varying degrees of difficulty to challenge all participating students.

Presiding over the competition were IT women Roshni Ravi, Anna Wills, Helen Durrant, Lisa Quayle and Lauren Rose from the global, independently owned, medical software organisation, Orion Health.

Team Leader at Orion Health Roshni Ravi says, “The challenge gives high school students an understanding of what computer science is because we can’t expect them to go and do an IT degree at university if they don’t know what it involves.”

“When I started in this role three years ago there was one woman and now there is eight or nine but this is compared to the hundreds of men employed in the same roles so it is still not enough and we need more,” she says.

Solutions Architect at Orion Health Anna Wills says, “The image of IT is still not true to what it is. Lots of people think it’s sitting in a dark basement on a computer all day but it is really a creative, relaxed environment and the way of the future.”

MIT Industry and Community Engagement Manager Edwina Mistry says, “Our goal is to help students recognise there is a place for women in the IT industry and that there are countless job opportunities available in this line of work.”

“MIT is out there encouraging schools to connect to tertiary then industry,” she says.

“When I first worked in the industry 28 years ago, I was one of just a few women. It has changed a bit since then but not enough which is why we set up this challenge that encourages female students to look at programming in the fun way.”

Letiana Lepupa and Marlina Letele from McAuley High School, Sisilia Fakalata from Tangaroa College and Chelcie Prasad and Jasmine Landignin from Marist College came out on top with gold medals.

Teams from Howick College, Sancta Maria College and Edgewater College were awarded silver medals and Epsom Girls Grammar, Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate Senior School and Botany Downs College students received bronze medals for their final products.

The top two teams, McAuley High School and Tangaroa College, will attend a two-day programming camp held by Victoria University where they will be given more information about how to start their careers in the IT industry.

The camp will take place in April 2014.


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