Camping and Computers
This summer, Fairfield University will host a one-week computer day camp for girls, which will be directed by Michael Zabinski, Ph.D., professor of physics at Fairfield University. The camp is being offered to 25 local female students entering 7th grade who were picked by five teachers from the surrounding school districts of Bridgeport, Fairfield, Newtown, Norwalk, and Trumbull.
The camp will be free to the girls, thanks to sponsorships and grants in kind totaling more than $10,000 by Fairfield University, The American Association of University Women (AAUW), National Computer Camps, Inc., The Harvey Hubbell Foundation and the Fairfield County Community Foundation Fund for Women and Girls.
“Fairfield University believes deeply in the abilities of women to contribute and excel in the sciences,” said Dr. Orin Grossman, Fairfield University’s academic vice president. “In today’s world that means a high degree of computer literacy. I am proud that we are able to work with Dr. Mike Zabinski to bring this opportunity to 25 excellent students this summer.”
“The Hubbell Foundation’s Board of Trustees was very pleased to be able to support this program, which offers a great opportunity to some area students, who might then be motivated to pursue a career in this field,” said Richard Davies, a Trustee of The Harvey Hubbell Foundation.
“This computer camp really fits in with our mission,” said Catherine Kalkstein, of the Fairfield County Community Foundation Fund For Women and Girls.
“We want a program that’s really going to help build leadership skills and build competencies,” Kalkstein said, noting that the Foundation was particularly pleased that the participating girls would be able to take the things they learned at the camp back to their individual schools to share.
Dr. Zabinski has been running a summer National Computer Camps program nationwide for 28 years but has been disappointed that the number of girls participating has always averaged around 10 percent. He is hoping the camp, which takes the best practices from his NCC experiences, will help address the need for more women in the technology field.
According to the National Council for Research on Women’s website: in 1999, women earned less than 20 percent of undergraduate science degrees. In 2001, 9 percent of all engineering jobs in the United States were held by women, though 45 percent of the entire work force is women, according to Jenna Russel’s article, “Women in Engineering” that appeared in a 2002 Boston Globe article.
“Girls do just as well [in math and science] as boys, if not better,” said Dr. Zabinski, who noted, for example, that there has been no apparent gender gap in the results of the 2001 Connecticut Mastery Test, according to the Connecticut State Department of Education. Also, female and male students in grades 4, 6 and 8 scored equally (within 1 percent) in mathematics.
The goal of the computer camp is to encourage girls to position themselves for future leadership roles in computer technology and also to develop life long computer skills such as computer programming, web design and software applications. It will also serve to stimulate interest in computer science among females and to instill confidence in the girls so that they will be tomorrow’s successful leaders in the field of technology.
“This initiative that Fairfield University is doing is in sync with The American Association of University Women because we believe that if you shortchange girls, you shortchange America,” said Dr. Marceline Barron, New England regional director for AAUW.
The five local school districts appointed liaison teachers for the camp, in order to select five girls from each school. “I believe the camp will be very beneficial for the young girls,” said Mary Ellen Corbiere of Roger Ludlowe Middle School in Fairfield. “The camp is a great opportunity for young girls that are interested in learning more about computer programs and applications.”
Dr. Zabinski founded National Computer Camps (NCC) in 1977 to prepare America’s young people for a world with computers. As America’s original computer camp, NCC attracts as many as 70 campers per week and 1,000 per year in locations in Fairfield, Conn.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Cleveland Ohio; and Atlanta, Ga. The program has served more than 25,000 youth thus far. In general, the camps teach children video game design, Web page design, computer programming, digital video production and software applications such as Flash and PhotoShop. Recently, campers have also been able to prepare for the A+ and Network+ certifications. A+ is one of the most respected entry-level IT certificates.