Porter-Gaud students, teacher recognized by national IT organization
Porter-Gaud high school students Elen Edelson and Jenny Ulber are breaking the stereotypes of computer science. Not only are they young women in a male-dominated field, but they’re also athletes who play a sport every season.
Elen, a senior, and Jenny, a junior, recently were recognized by the National Center for Women in Information Technology for their work in computer science.
The pair was selected for the 2013 NCWIT S.C. Affiliate Award for Aspirations in Computing along with three other high school students in the state. Jenny was a runner-up for the national award, and their computer science teacher, Doug Bergman, was selected as the recipient of NCWIT’s 2013 S.C. educator Award for encouraging young women to join the field.
The girls will go to Columbia in April to be recognized at a formal banquet, and Bergman has received $1,000 to attend a computer science conference of his choice.
Elen and Jenny have developed advanced programs in Bergman’s project-based classes. They have created apps for the X-Box Kinect gaming system, designed websites, created programs using robotics and designed Android apps, to name a few.
“The kids lead their own projects and use me as a guide. I help them take an idea and translate it to the screen,” said Bergman, who has been teaching at Porter-Gaud for 12 years.
Elen said one of the projects she is working on is a chemistry lab simulator for the Kinect.
She said the game is a great learning tool because players can see the reaction of mixed chemicals that they would not be able to manipulate in real life.
She also spent several hours with a chemistry teacher to get the information and video for the game.
Bergman works with his students to sell their games and present them to leaders in the industry.
Jenny said she has created a limbo game for the Kinect and worked on a program that she hopes to send to a school in Ghana where she first volunteered while on a mission trip.
Elen said she enjoys computer science because “it’s your own world that you can change yourself.”
Elen, Jenny and Bergman said women have a special place in computer science.
“If girls got more involved in technology, there would be a wider scope of programs. Women are more personal and develop a lot of educational games,” Jenny said.
“Women have a whole different look and interpretation of things. They bring a different perspective to the industry we haven’t had,” said Bergman.
Bergman said more people in general, not just women, need to join the field. “Companies don’t have enough people to hire and go offshore for people,” Bergman said.
“If America wants to remain the strongest country in the world, students have to be trained in the marketplace. We’ve got to have people that can design things, build things and make things.”
Elen said studying computer science and creating programs have helped her in other areas, too. “You can see more of the process of things. It gives you a new mind-set,” she said.
Elen and Jenny were selected for the award after submitting an application. Bergman did not have to fill out an application and was surprised when he was notified of the honor.
“Awards like NCWIT encourage girls to get involved,” Jenny said.
“By seeing Jenny and Elen’s work, other girls will be inspired. It will help break down stereotypes,” Bergman said.
Elen is waiting to hear back from the colleges she applied to (her top choice is Stanford University) and plans on majoring in biomedical engineering to use computer science to solve real-world problems.
Jenny has one more year at Porter-Gaud and said she plans on applying again to NCWIT to hopefully win a national award.
She would like to study computer forensics and has her heart set on Cornell University.Reach Jade McDuffie at 937-5560 or firstname.lastname@example.org.