IBM tries to get girls interested in IT

Computers are cool and it’s time more girls realize it, according to Jelena Lukovic.

Lukovic, who turns 13 in September, really likes computers and she recently took that interest to a new level by participating in IBM’s summer camp for girls.

The camp held at IBM Corp. facilities across the globe, held its Markham, Ont. version from August 13 to 17. Lukovic, who attends John G. Althouse Middle School in Etobicoke, Ont., was one of 30 girls from Grades 7 and 8 who attended the week-long event.

Lukovic pointed to the session that let girls build robots with Lego Mindstorm as one of her favourite activities.

“We built robots using the Lego and then had a competition where they were fighting,” she said. “I also liked building a computer.” The group also put together a hard drive and then raced to see who could do it fastest.

Girls who showed an interest in maths and sciences were approached by the Greater Toronto District School Board earlier this year and offered the opportunity to go to this camp.

Michelle McMartin said it was interesting to come to this camp, because computers always seem to be a “boy thing.”

“It was really cool to actually be touching computer hardware. It was amazing to realize that I could do this,” the 13-year-old said.

McMartin, who is going into Grade 8 at Hazel McCallion school in Mississauga, Ont., said it was interesting to meet other girls who are interested in computers.

Lukovic said many of her friends say that computers are for geeks, but both girls stressed that computers are the wave of the future.

McMartin said that kids have to be shown what technology is doing. “It is the coolest thing.”

Both girls said they have an interest in going into science or engineering as a career choice.

Rena Chenoy, director of IBM Canada’s Women in Technology program for schools, kindergarten to Grade 12, was pleased to see so many girls interested in technology.

“There are three objectives to this event underlying the fun,” Chenoy said. “One is to stress to the girls not to drop maths and sciences. Two is that careers in the next decade are to be predominantly in technology, and three is that we have to overcome the misconception of IT careers as being for ‘geeks.'”

She added that this camp is part of IBM’s ongoing Women in IT programming, which has included workshops for girls in schools and mentoring programs with female IBM employees and teenage girls.

Kimberley Messer, a developer with IBM, is co-chair of the camp. She said there is such a difference when it is just girls in the room.

“They are at an age when they behave differently if there are boys there. This week they’ve been screaming and yelling and getting excited about what they’re doing,” she said.

Chenoy noted that this seems like a good age to start reminding girls of the importance of math and science, because it is at the high school level that many young women drop those programs.

The camps are also running in Vancouver and at more than 15 other sites around the world.

IBM Canada is at http://www.ibm.ca