Girls at Northwest Early College High School are taking the computer science world by storm. In a field where boys usually dominate, the Northwest girls are changing the norm.
For the first time a Canutillo ISD student received national recognition from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). Northwest senior Alondra Baquier has been named a national honorable mention for the 2020 NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing.
NCWIT annually recognizes about four hundred high school women in computing from 48 states. Of the 21 girls who are local affiliate winners in El Paso, six are Northwest students.
Northwest AP Physics and AP Computer Science teacher Catherine Tabor encourages young female students to participate in computer science and STEM-related activities.
“Technology is the future, and it is such a broad field that the more women in the field, the more diverse and reactive the products can be,” Tabor said. “We need diversity in computer science. You code what you know. If there are no women involved in a project, the projects tend to contain intrinsic bias.”
According to Tabor, since 2009, the percentage of women computer science undergraduates in the United States has declined from 20.7%
to 18.7%. The Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas at Austin profiles students in computer science across the state. In a 2018 study, the Center found that only about 24% of students enrolled in computer science courses are female. But, Baquier and other female computer science students at Northwest are bucking the trend at about 52%.
“I don’t realize it here, because there are a lot of girls in the clubs,” Baquier said. “But, when I go to other competitions for robotics or coding challenges, I see mostly guys competing.”
Baquier and her teammates, Northwest juniors Kamilla Madera and Lianna Estrada have also been awarded third place for the 2019 District 16 Congressional App Challenge. The girls developed a mobile app addressing animal cruelty with a focus on circus animals. Estrada pointed out that most of the teams at the app challenge were comprised of boys and they were the only team of girls who placed.
“Northwest helps promote us girls to go into computer science and STEM-related fields and that is very special,” Estrada said.
Madera is also passionate about wanting more equality in technology and STEM environments.
“It’s very cool being able to see women take a stand and rise above, not rise above men but be able to collaborate with them,” Madera said.
The Northwest girls are also currently working on a virtual reality gaming project to enter the Sun City Challenge, a high school virtual reality and 3D printing competition to re-engineer, design, and educate the community on the power of renewable energy.
Baquier’s future plans include attending a four-year college and getting a major in computer science and minor in electrical or mechanical engineering. She wants to get a job in a company that focuses on producing new technologies to make projects of her own.
Author: Lhaisha Contreras – Canutillo ISD