On July 26, the first-ever Break Through Tech at Mason Guild program kicks off with a group of more than 60 women from Mason and Northern Virginia Community College who want to learn more about technology and computing.
Mason’s Guild program, created from the grant and partnership with Break Through Tech DC, is a paid opportunity for female undergraduate students to learn about the field of computing risk-free. “The Guild is a five-day program intended to encourage women to explore computing in a meaningful way,” says Shvetha Soundararajan, Break Through Tech DC co-site lead at Mason and assistant professor of computer science.
For five days, Soundararajan, Associate Professor Shahnaz Kamberi, and computing teaching assistants will immerse participants in the basics of computing and give them the chance to use their newly learned skills to design, create, and test their own computing project.
Their projects will focus on innovations in educational technology. “With the pandemic over this past year, there have been so many challenges with the way we teach and learn, and that is something they have all experienced,” says Soundararajan. “And this will give them the chance to look at those problems they’ve faced and create something that will help people.”
Throughout the week, industry mentors from companies like Microsoft, MasterCard, Verizon, and Booz Allen will also help students define the scope of their projects and show students the numerous pathways accessible to them in computing.
“We want to dispel a lot of the myths about computing. Some think it is a ‘masculine’ subject, some think computing is just about coding, but we want to show them the field is accessible to everyone, and there are many more components to computing than coding,” says Kamberi.
The Guild also focuses on building a community and making meaningful connections with fellow women in computing, which is sometimes challenging. So often, women in technology and computing can struggle to find role models and people like themselves, says Soundararajan, but the Guild’s goal is to give women a network that further inspires them in computing.
“The Guild program would not have been possible without the support of our industry partners, and there was an overwhelming response from DC area tech companies to participate in this first offering. It is exciting to note that Guild provides students the opportunity to see computing making an impact in our society, and in conjunction with other Break Through Tech programs, propels them on a successful academic and career trajectory,” says Huzefa Rangwala, professor of computer science and Break Through Tech DC site lead.
On the last day of the Guild, students will present their creations to Mason faculty, teaching assistants, and industry mentors. “This may be their first project in computing, and we hope that the experience and the support they get will push them to explore computing degrees,” says Kamberi.
Guild is only one opportunity offered by Break Through Tech DC to propel more women and people who identify as women into the field of computing. Learn more about Mason’s partnership with the University of Maryland, College Park, to diversify the tech ecosystem through Break Through Tech DC.