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Voices in Focus: Girls Who Build Robots and Boys Who Man Up

August 17, 2012 6:18 pm Leave a comment By  | Via , A+ / A-

Happy Friday, everybody. To finish up the week we have two excellent stories about kids’ summer programs plucked from New York’s community and ethnic press. Enjoy!

* A 2011 report by the Congressional Joint Economic Committee found that only 14 percent of engineers in this country are women. Founded by Reshma Saujani, the former New York Deputy Public Advocate, Girls Who Code is an organization that seeks to close the gap. Manhattan Times‘ Sherry Mazzocchi had the story.

Before Khady Samb moved to the Bronx from Senegal, she’d never seen a robot. Now she’s learning how to build one.

Samb, a 16-year old high school sophomore, is learning about nested for loops and if-then statements at Girls Who Code.

The eight-week class teaches 20 high school girls from all over the city programming languages, smartphone apps, website design and robotics.

Not all New York public schools provide computers for student use; fewer teach programming. As many economists expect growth in the tech sector, ensuring that children have these skills is essential. The program, still in a pilot phase, aims to inspire a love for math and the sciences in its students.

No one had to convince Samb of the program’s virtues. She came to the program not knowing anyone, but quickly made a lot of new friends. “They are all like my sisters,” she said.

In Senegal, Samb dreamed about using computers.

“So now, I’m learning,” she said. “Nobody is ever going to tell me not to use it.”

Prince David Pierce, with some of his campers. (Photo via Amsterdam News)

* The neighborhood of East New York, Brooklyn, is usually in the news for poverty and grisly crime. The Amsterdam News chose to show another side of the community in a profile of Prince David Pierce, a camp counselor doing what he can for his community. He spends his days mentoring children before going home to help care for his newborn.

“I am very proud of the work we do and how we work with these young people, and make them enjoy their summer while they are learning new things about themselves and the city in which they live,” said Pierce, with parents and their offspring milling around during a meet-and-greet session.

Struck by the name of the organization – Man Up! Inc., Pierce got involved through the Summer Youth Employment Program, then became a volunteer before he was hired as a counselor.

It is in the learning-while-playing that Pierce says the children discover their enjoyment. “We even went to see ‘Fela!’ on Broadway, for example, and the kids loved it. The company gave us tickets and we were able to take 30 children. They’d never been to Broadway, and the counselors who chaperoned them had never been to Broadway. They loved it. We loved it, and then we got to meet the brother who played Fela, Duain Richmond, and our youth group with dontshootNYC.com got to interview him. You can’t buy experiences like that. The campers loved it.”

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