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Girls Go Digital: Summer camps for young girls promote future tech careers

SHARE Girls Go Digital: Summer camps for young girls promote future tech careers

SALT LAKE CITY — Savannah Jo Patience says she wants to be an "imagineer."

"It's sort of like an engineer, except you work for Disney and you do the rides and stuff," the 11-year-old said as she watched the robotic ball she coded swerve around the room.

Savannah was one of 66 girls participating in a Girls Go Digital summer camp, hosted by Junior Achievement, 444 W. 100 South, on Monday and Tuesday to learn about computers, programming, technology and design.

Girls Go Digital is a program for girls age 8 to 18 that focusses on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. The program applies four principles: hack, code, design and make.

Founder Rachel Ramsay created the program because of her desire for girls to break the stereotype that women have a lower ability to excel in the tech industry than men. She wants girls to have opportunities to become whatever they want to become.

Ramsay, 41, said she became interested in computer science and technology as a college student but was discouraged from becoming involved in it because she was a female. This didn't stop her from her love of technology and her desire for others to fulfill a similar love.

Ramsey encourages young girls to pursue computer science or technology, but most importantly, she wants girls to "feel good about what their capabilities" and remember that "anything's possible."

Since its launch in 2013, Girls Go Digital has jumped from reaching only six girls through workshops and camps, to 450 this summer.

Tuesday's workshop was one of five Utah camps this summer. Ramsay also visits states such as Pennsylvania and Rhode Island to perform workshops.

"There's such a gender gap. We want to give girls a leg up," she said.

Ramsay said she wants to expose girls to technology earlier in life so that by their late teen years they will have acquired skills and familiarity to push them to seek any career they want.

Ramsay hopes to denounce the "Western culture" idea that only boys can do hard things.

The girls-only classes allow the girls to see others like them succeeding in something similar, and not compare themselves to boys, according to Ramsay.

"It feels like you don't get judged here," Savannah said, "We're all girls, and boys don't judge you."

Isabel Blackburn, 9, of Bountiful, made a ballerina out of a battery and a small makeshift motor at the camp on Tuesday.

"I like how you put the wires together and that stuff," she said.

Isabel said she also liked building her own website because she feels like normally only "grown-ups" get to do that.

"I really like learning more about the internet because it helps me learn more about it so that I can feel more comfortable going on it," she said.

The camp is not like school, Isabel said, but instead "really fun because you get to create your own stuff."

Email: ahobbs@deseretnews.com