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Tech Camp focuses on girls


Eleven-year-old Jenn Croft, a pupil at Old Mill Middle School South, said her top career goal is to become a journalist.

But in case that doesn't work out - or pay enough - she's positioning herself for a career in computers.

That's why she spent last week at Tech Camp for Girls, a program offered by instructors Brandi Shepard and Frank Lanzer at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold.

"I'm really interested in HTML as a backup plan," she said.

The class, which met last week at the college's Arnold campus, is for girls in middle school and explores such topics as computer-aided drafting and design, Web-page design, digital photography, computer programming and computer construction.

"It's really fun," Jenn said. "I've come home every day and just babbled on about everything I did."

Field trip

On Wednesday, students took a field trip to the National Cryptologic Museum at the National Security Agency. The goal was "to show them the importance of mathematics" as it relates to breaking codes, Lanzer said.

Shepard, an instructor in architecture and interior design, touched on physics by challenging the girls to create crates strong enough to protect eggs that were dropped from a height of 25 feet.

Only one of the 18 eggs survived the fall, but the learning experience was what mattered, Shepard said.

The idea for the class came three years ago at a picnic, Shepard said, when she and Lanzer were discussing the paucity of females in her architecture and his engineering classes.

Now, in the college's engineering program, about one in five students is female, and all of the instructors are male, he said.

"That's not bad," he said. "It's better than it used to be, but not as good as it should be."

In architecture, about 40 percent of the students are female. Shepard is one of two female instructors (the other is in interior design).

Two years ago, with the help of a grant, the instructors launched the program. About 15 girls signed up.

This summer, 40 girls are in the class, and five more are on the waiting list, Shepard said.

One reason the class has grown more popular is that it's now affiliated with the college's Kids in College program, which enrolls more than 2,500 young people in half-day and full-day camps.

The class was printed in a Kids on Campus course catalog and was advertised along with other campus camps, Shepard said.

For next year, the instructors are considering a second week so that more girls can be involved, Lanzer said.

Lanzer, who used to teach at Chesapeake High School, said he ran a similar program there, just for middle-school girls. Research shows that girls are naturally interested in science and technology when they are young, but often are turned off to the subjects by high school.

"If girls learn enough and still make that choice, that's OK," he said.

But he wanted a program that would reach middle-school girls and get them excited about technology before they made that decision. "But if they don't shut those doors, then we might see them in four or five years."

Signed up by father

Phoenicia Butler, 11, said her father, an engineer, signed her up for the camp.

"I like to go on the computer and do different things with him," she said.

The two were scheduled to take a photography class together yesterday, she said.

The technology camp takes place in several rooms, including a computer lab where, Thursday morning, about half the girls were learning about computer-aided drafting and design.

All the girls were tech-savvy enough to log on to their computers and immediately begin checking out the Internet or playing card games before the instruction began.

Taylor Schuman, 11, said her favorite part of the camp so far was the digital photography, where students could put their own faces on the bodies of animals.

"That was fun," Taylor said.

But her real reason for enrolling in the camp was her interest in technology.

"I like technology, and I would like to learn about architecture," she said.

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