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'father-daughter hackday' encourages girls to become makers of technology


If it's up to Rachel Wilkins Patel, fathers and daughters will create something cool together this Father's Day.

Patel is founder HER Ideas in Motion, Northeast Ohio’s first technology and media program for girls. On June 15, the nonprofit will host a Father-Daughter HackDay featuring hands-on activities and career role-modeling for girls ages 11-14 interested in STEM-focused studies. Participants will create their own projects under the tutelage of female technology professionals.

The workshop "is about fathers encouraging daughters to try new things and become makers of technology, not just users," says Patel, a developer at Progressive Insurance.

Being the only woman in the room is not uncommon in high-tech professions, something that HER Ideas in Motion aims to change.

"The number of women in programming is flat and even decreasing in some areas," Patel says. "We're trying to address social and industry issues."

Launched in 2011, the program has graduated 130 students. Interacting with successful women from Rosetta, LeanDog Software, NetApp and Keybank during the Father's Day program will only motivate teen girls to pursue their high-tech aspirations, believes the nonprofit founder.

Gender should not be an obstacle for creative types hoping to program their own video game or dissect the inner workings of a computer, Patel notes. Middle school is the perfect time to introduce girls to the ever-growing digital space.

"We want to reach them before they know what they're capable of," she says. "They should be comfortable taking technical classes later in their school careers."

 
SOURCE: Rachel Wilkins Patel
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth
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