Union students attend celebration of women in coding

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By Riley Konsella Sci/Tech Editor Emeritus This past weekend, 16 Union students and three professors travelled to Henrietta, NY, to take part in the fifth annual New York Celebration of Women in Computing (NYCWiC). The two-day event was sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery’s (ACM) Council on Women in Computing, an organization chaired by Union’s own Valerie Barr, a Visiting Professor in the Computer Science Department. It was also organized in part by Assistant Professor Nick Webb. The conference is intended to be a focus on the women in computing across New York state, with primarily female attendees from dozens of technology programs in the state. It always features female keynote speakers and although any student can attend and present research, only women are eligible to win awards for their work. This year’s keynote speaker was Reshma Saujani, the founder and CEO of the tech nonprofit Girls Who Code. The organization sponsors student clubs across the nation and hosts summer immersion camps at major tech companies like Facebook, Microsoft and AT&T to empower middle and high school aged girls to embrace the challenge of programming. Saujani discussed the choice to start a programming based nonprofit as unconventional for a person who did not know how to code at the time the organization was founded. The decision to embrace young girls to learn about this possible career and foster the dream of a career in tech was inspired by her personal need to make a difference in the world after a failed run for Congress in 2010. Saujani stressed the importance of failure in a career path, that the personal growth from a significant failure is oftentimes more valuable than continuous success. She says coding is the perfect tool to teach girls to be brave and embrace failure due to the difficult and oftentimes frustrating development process, contrasted with the satisfaction and joy of completing an interesting project. The conference also featured a short address from Vicki Hanson, the President of the Association for Computing Machinery. She discussed the importance of women in computing and how it came to be that the ACM, an organization that is 86 percent male, is headed by three women. Other events over the weekend included a student poster session, including presentations by Union students Venus Yu ‘17 and Anna Ko ‘17. Four sessions of workshops and research presentations were also scheduled, with many of the workshops addressing the challenges faced by women and minorities in both the tech industry and academia. Next year’s NYCWiC has already been confirmed. Union will surely once again be in attendance.

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