Guest author: Thomas Scott, Brandjournalists

Rebecca Parrent is listening for squeals. The girls in Adams County, Colorado are doing what all kids do in camp – making arts and crafts and having fun. The unexpected twist is that they are learning about computer science and engineering.

The first time she heard them, the squeals of delight took Rebecca by surprise. Now she simply waits for them, and she doesn’t have to wait long!

“Oooooh, this is so COOL!”

Parrent, a COMPUTER EXPLORERS owner, has a daughter herself and is on a mission: engage elementary and middle school aged girls with technology that is fun, and keep them interested as they mature.

Squeals are great, but the stakes are high. Between 2000 and 2005, the number of incoming undergraduate women majoring in computer science fell 70 percent, according to the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines (STEM) have experience similar dramatic drops. The gender gap is real, and has its roots in elementary and middle school.

COMPUTER EXPLORERS doesn’t just want to bridge this gap; we want to blow it up! “We’re making technology come to life, making it fun. When it becomes fun, girls forget the stigma STEM subjects have,” Parrent says.

In one course the girls build a house with Lego’s but add sensors that switch on lights, open doors and operate fans. Younger girls create a robotics-based birthday cake with candles that light up, and that sings recorded songs upon command. More sophisticated robots and video game programming follow.

“Things start lighting up, making noises and literally make STEM subjects come to life,” Parrent reports. “We’re not lecturing girls or making them memorize the way they do in the traditional classroom; we’re making it fun.”

COMPUTER EXPLORERS around the US and in Europe, Asia and Africa offers technology education classes in schools, after school programs, summer camps and recreation centers.

And judging by the noise coming from Adams County camps in Colorado this summer, the squeals could be the beginning of STEM-based careers for a new generation of girls!