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Berkeley Lab Staff Mentor High School Girls in Science Education App Development

February 23, 2012

Contact: Jon Bashor, Jbashor@lbl.gov, 510-486-5849

Top Left: 60 high school girls develop science apps for Android Smartphones with Berkeley Lab mentors
Top Right: Mentor is Amy Chen (purple shirt) of the Computational Research Division
Bottom Left: Mentor is Michele Dunleavy (green shirt) of Information Technologies
Bottom Right: Mentor is Taghrid Samak (striped purple shirt) of the Computational Research Division

Late Tuesday afternoons, as many Lab employees are heading down the Hill after work, a group of more than 60 high school girls from Berkeley and Albany heads up to Berkeley Lab for a series of 10 two-hour workshops to develop science education apps for Android smart phones.

Split into five-member teams, the girls are being mentored by 20 women who work at the Lab. The girls are tasked with coming up with their own ideas for an app related to science education, then vetting the idea by running it by potential users. Once they develop the app, they will also need to come up with a business plan and pitch their idea to a panel of judges on April 28. Judges will select one app to compete in a similar judging of winning apps from sessions held around the Bay Area and in other states. The winning app will be professionally developed and distributed on the Android Market.

"It's really exciting for both them and us—there are a lot of creative ideas in my group," said Amy Chen, a mentor and member of the Biological Data Management and Technology Department. "All of the girls in my group have taken or are taking biology class, so they are considering a bio application. They also play a lot of games, so they have ideas on how to make the app interesting and add some cool factors."

A member of the Computing Sciences Diversity Working Group, Chen said she volunteered because she wants to help encourage more girls to enter the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. "To do that, we need to start working with them before they enter college and choose a major," she said.

The program is developed by Technovation Challenge, which is a program of Iridescent, a non-profit organization dedicated to science and technology education. The Technovation Challenge aims to promote women in technology by giving girls the skills and confidence they need to be successful in computer science and entrepreneurship.

"It's been an exciting few weeks as the girls have been brainstorming app ideas and are starting to determine their target market. It's been wonderful to watch the teams come together and get excited about programming their app and learning about entrepreneurship," said AnnaLise Hoopes, Director of Educational and Corporate Partnerships for Iridescent. "The mentors from Berkeley Lab have been an invaluable source of support for the girls, and their expertise in both science and technology is a huge asset to the program. We are very grateful for the lab's support!"

In addition to Chen, mentors from Computing Sciences are Deb Agarwal , Sowmya Balasubramanian, Orianna Demasi, Krishnaveni Palaniappan and Taghrid Samak. Katie Antypas and Kirsten Fagnan of NERSC are serving as mentors at the program being held on the UC Berkeley campus.

Other Berkeley Lab mentors are Katherine Copic, Physics; Michele Dunleavy, IT; Laura Eichman, IT; Danielle Fox, EETD; Sufia Haque, Engineering; Sophia Haussener, EETD; Sally Lafferty, IT; Anna Liao, EETD; Deborah Miller, HR; Ina Reichel, AFRD; Corey Ralston, ALS; Lydia Young, Director's Office; and Alison Williams, EETD. Veronica Nero and Soo Lee of Human Resources and Jon Bashor of Computing Sciences are providing logistical support.

About Computing Sciences at Berkeley Lab

High performance computing plays a critical role in scientific discovery. Researchers increasingly rely on advances in computer science, mathematics, computational science, data science, and large-scale computing and networking to increase our understanding of ourselves, our planet, and our universe. Berkeley Lab’s Computing Sciences Area researches, develops, and deploys new foundations, tools, and technologies to meet these needs and to advance research across a broad range of scientific disciplines.