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22 Apr

Women in the Technology Field: Yesterday and Today

Girls in tech

Women in the technology fields existed long ago but are rarely acknowledged or remembered. For example, Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper developed computer and programming language from 1930-1980. Her 44-year career peak was the computer language development, written in English rather than mathematics. COBOL, is Hopper's legacy, honored by the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference.

Six women programmed the first electronic computer as part of a secret World War Two project. The project, unveiled in 1946 gave no introduction or credit to the young women, because computer science was not understood as an emerging field, and public focus was on the machine. Amazing success cannot remain hidden, an ENIAC Programmers Project has worked to preserve the true stories of such women.

Currently, big news in the STEM fields emerged in robotics. Dean Kamen created, FIRST®, (for inspiration and recognition of science and technology) a 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity. Kamen, inventor of the Segway and about 400 other patents, entrepreneur, and advocate for science and technology desired programs to motivate students to pursue education in science, technology, engineering, and math, and to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills.

FIRST® recruits students of all ages and gender and is already showing great strides for girls and women in the now 25-year-old program recently featured in the Wall Street Journal.

While FIRST® began in the USA in 1989, FIRST® Australia was born at Macquarie University in 2006. Since then, the group partnered with schools and universities, forming teams and competitions held in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. The Australian teams enjoyed remarkable success at the FIRST® World Championship Tournament each year since 2006.

According to a three-year study on the USA program, "FIRST® continues to show significantly greater impacts on girls than their male counterparts on all of the STEM-related measures." Worldwide there are 32,600 teams made up of 350,000+ students from nearly 80 countries. The best news is, the percentage of girls and women participants is growing. Especially in the USA state of Michigan, host for the 2018 World Robotics championships and home to more all-girl teams than any other state. "I''m seeing an uptick," said Gail Alpert, president of the state''s robotics association. "They''re taking on critical roles. They''re drivers. They''re coaches. They''re mentors."

Excitement is high at robotics competitions intended by Kamen as spectator sports that have turned out wildly popular, well-attended events with team shirts, sports announcers and huge sponsors like Hungry Howie''s, Consumers Energy and well, okay, NASA. The sport already has its own TV channel and everywhere you look, in the audience, as mentors, on the floor, wearing safety glasses, turning the wrenches, programming the codes are, behold! The women of technology speaking in tongues like Java, Eclipse, and C++/Java are emerging!

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