High School Students Learn Full Stack at Drexel CCI’s First Digital Development Camp

Graphic design of laptop computer with coding lines and cogs on grid background

This summer, Drexel’s College of Computing & Informatics (CCI) launched its first two-and-a-half-week Digital Development Camp for high school women students to learn about full stack web development, which covers both the front-end user experience and the back-end server that processes and stores the data received from the user. The camp, which ran from August 3 to 14, was held in a fully virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but featured comprehensive, interactive lessons and workshops on topics such as web development, HTML, CSS, Javascript, Node.js, Python and Tableau.

“The College is proud to sponsor this camp to give aspiring women developers the opportunity to learn about full stack development,” said CCI Dean and Isaac L. Auerbach Professor Yi Deng, PhD. “In this technological age, we need more people who are able to develop and design responsive, high-quality websites to help to better our industry and society.” 

The camp focused exclusively on full stack web development because of “its easy on ramp and high ceiling,” explained Camp Director and CCI Assistant Teaching Professor Tammy Pirmann. “The web has the distinction of being available to almost everyone and of requiring no special tools or expensive software to do well.”

To teach HTML, camp instructors used Repl.it to help students create a simple autobiographical page with headlines, paragraphs, a list, an image, hyperlinks and a footer with special characters. The Repl.it tool helped campers with no prior technical experience to create a site in a two-week time frame, while campers with previous development experience used the tool to create a more dynamic site. CCI Dean’s Ambassadors and student teaching assistants were available to provide assistance to campers while they learned new skills and built their sites. 

Campers also gained a comprehensive understanding of research and developments across a wide span of computing disciplines through presentations by CCI faculty members including: Assistant Teaching Professor Andrew Calhoun, Associate Professor Andrea Forte, PhD, Associate Teaching Professor Thomas Heverin, PhD, Associate Professor Michelle Rogers, PhD, Assistant Teaching Professor Galen Long, and Assistant Teaching Professor Boris Valerstein.

“Coming into this camp I had no prior experience in Javascript or Node.js, so it was definitely very valuable for me to not only be exposed to these languages, but also be able to create something, even as seemingly simple as a [website] comments section, and have a fully functioning example of what I was able to learn here,” said camper Sarah Bargfrede, who worked on a website designed to educate fellow high school students on financial and life skills.

The goal of the camp was not only to provide young women students with a comprehensive introduction to web development, but also to inspire them to pursue studies—and potentially a future career—in computing.

The camp hosted several guest speakers talk to campers about their career paths and experience in the tech industry. “We wanted the young women to have a positive experience with software development before starting college, and we wanted to provide positive role models of women who have been successful in the field,” said Pirmann. “Most of the campers told us they want to major in a computer science or information science field in college.”

This year’s Digital Development Camp class was comprised of ten high school students—five rising juniors and five rising seniors—hailing from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Arizona. Campers were encouraged to work in teams to develop a web development project that would be presented at a virtual project showcase at the end of the camp. Camp instructors used Agile in teams of three or four campers and provided them with tools like Kanban to help the teams organize their work.

“I was impressed with the amount of growth exhibited by each team,” said Pirmann. “It was clear from their demonstrations and presentations that the teamwork they experienced was an important part of the overall camp experience.”

“I came to this camp with no coding experience at all,” said camper Sanjana Kothuri, who worked on the Girls Education Worldwide website. “Overall, this camp was an amazing experience – it helped me to learn how to code HTML, CSS and Javascript. It also helped all of us overcome obstacles, learn how to work together, learn how to collaborate and bring our ideas together, and it allowed us to create an amazing website for an amazing cause.”

The following three website projects were presented at the virtual showcase on August 14:

“Money Management 101: A how-to guide to life, finances and other stuff”

Money Management 101 homepage
“Our website was created predominantly for students in our age group – students and teenagers like us who are getting ready to go to college and enter the metaphorical real world with little to no prior experience or knowledge in these critically important real-world topics. We chose to focus predominantly on areas of finance, with pages on banking, stocks and taxes. We populated these pages with research from websites that simplify these complicated processes. We also created an ‘Other’ page which features topics such as how to do laundry to what to do if you’re pulled over—knowledge that we’re not specifically taught in high school, but we’re required to know once we leave. So our website serves to fill this knowledge gap by compiling all these resources and informational videos into one, easily accessible site for students like us.” 

“Girls Education Worldwide”

Girls Education Worldwide homepage
“Our site is designed to spread awareness and inform people about the issues that girls all across the world, especially in third world countries, are facing. We’re all very passionate about this topic as we ourselves are young girls who received a good education, and our lives would not be the same if we did not go to school, which is why we chose to focus our site on educating girls around the world. Our site is for those who want to help girls all over the world by donating, learning more about the issues at hand, and reading about stories of girls who are currently or were struggling to access education.”

“WISTEMH.S.: Women in STEM High School”

WiSTEM High School webpage
“Our group is looking to increase the amount of high school girls who are interested in tech fields. Our website is designed to provide lots of resources for high school girls who are interested in technology at any level and include lots of general information on organizations that support women in STEM, and the places to learn the basics of various coding languages.” 

A Commitment to Computing for All

The camp is an extension of the College’s longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, including its Women in Tech Initiative. The Initiative was originally founded with a goal of increasing enrollment of women undergraduate students at CCI by 50 percent in five years, and in just three years, has significantly outpaced this goal by increasing the number of enrolled women students by 70 percent. The initiative also serves to improve the recruitment and retention of women students in the College through curricular improvements as well as bolstering opportunities and resources for students of all backgrounds. CCI is also ensuring the success and sustainability of the Initiative by working with K through 12 schools, two-year colleges, industry collaborators, donors and community organizations. In addition, the College established a robust Women in Tech scholarship fund to help students pursue an education at CCI.

Explore CCI's Women in Tech Initiative

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