When Elenna Kim was in middle school, she went to computer science summer camps at Indiana University. Often, only one or two other girls attended, she said.
So when Kim was a freshman, she started a club at Bloomington High School South to provide a welcoming environment for girls interested in computing.
“It was kind of intimidating,” Kim said of the summer camps. “I guess that kind of helped me figure out why I wanted to start Girls Who Code.”
Kim said her vision for the club is to go to competitions, such as computer hacking competitions, and to complete projects.
“I hope they learn that the (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field doesn’t always have to be dominated by males,” Kim said of the club’s members. “There are lots of capable females who can do it, and if we’re in a welcoming environment and we all work together, it kind of helps build our confidence.”
Indiana is one of just five states in the country to have implemented all nine policies promoted by the Code.org Advocacy Coalition with the goal of providing a foundation for K-12 computer science education.
According to the 2019 State of Computer Science Education report, put together by the Code.org Advocacy Coalition, the Computer Science Teachers Association and the Expanding Computing Education Pathways Alliance, all 50 states have adopted or are in the process of adopting at least one of the nine policies.
The report says that as states adopt these policies, the number of female and minority students taking Advanced Placement computer science exams increases.
While Kim doesn’t know what the future holds in terms of a specific career, she knew she wanted to give learning about computer science a chance.
“I kind of felt like it would be a good career to pursue because STEM is an increasing field in general,” Kim said. “So I thought it would be a good idea to take interest in it.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of computer and information research scientists is projected to increase by 16% between 2008 and 2028. This is higher than the average for all occupations. Other jobs in the STEM field, like software development, are also growing quicker than the average for other occupations.
In Indiana, starting in July 2021, public school districts must include computer science in their curriculum from kindergarten through 12th, according to the passage of State Enrolled Act 172 in 2018.
Another example of the state’s progress pointed out in the report is the allocated $3 million per year for computer science professional development derived from the 2019 passing of House Enrolled Act 1001.
Rural schools and schools with high rates of students receiving free and reduced-price lunches are less likely to offer computer science courses, according to the 2019 State of Computer Science Education report. Last year, 62% of high schools in Indiana reported teaching computer science, with about 10% more urban schools teaching it than rural schools.
Kim said the Girls Who Code club is a way students can get a head start if they’re planning to take computer science class the following year.
This year the group is planning to participate in the Girls Go CyberStart program, which introduces high school girls to cybersecurity through digital challenges, Kim said. Members of the club are downloading applications they need to help them reach their goals for the year.
Girls Who Code meets every Monday during student resource time. Kim said there’s also a GEMS, or girls in engineering, math and science, club at South.
“That shows how the number of girls in technology is expanding,” Kim said. “I think that’s a really good message.”