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Commonwealth Alliance for Information Technology Education (CAITE)


CAITE designs and carrys out comprehensive programs that address under-representation in information technology (IT).

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CAITE Highlight

Girls Inc. Visits UMass Amherst

A van full of girls from the Holyoke chapter of Girls Inc. visited the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Friday, Aug. 8, 2008 to tour information technology (IT) workplaces and learn about computer-related careers. The girls are participating in a national program called “Build IT” that is designed to tap into the curiosity of girls between the ages of 9 and 15 about design in order to involve them with related technology.

The “tech field trip” was arranged by the Commonwealth Alliance for Information Technology (CAITE), based in the UMass Amherst computer science department, along with the academic computing department at the Office of Information Technology.

On their visit the girls were shown a variety of computing careers including instructional design and faculty support, video editing and digital photography, media lab management and Web communications.. Laura Yahn, coordinator of instructional design and faculty support in academic computing at OIT and four women staff members talked to the girls about their IT jobs.

The girls also met with Beverly Woolf, professor of computer science, and Evelyn Barney in the Center for Knowledge Communications lab in the computer science department. Woolf and Barney introduced the girls to Web design and demonstrated the lab’s intelligent tutor project, where computerized tutors respond to students and adjust to their emotional state by using an array of sensors.

Over lunch, the girls learned more about UMass as a workplace and a school from Renee Fall, CAITE project manager, and UMass undergraduate Jelisa Difo, a volunteer in the Student Bridges program.

Girls Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring girls to seek education and meet physical and intellectual challenges. Holyoke Girls Inc. is one of eight sites that are piloting “Build IT, ” which originated in Alameda County, Calif. and was developed with support of the National Science Foundation and the Noyce Foundation.

After this first “Build IT” field trip, Sarah Duncan, Director of Youth Development for Girls Inc., said, “I am glad that you were able to blend the tech with the UMass information and with the classroom tours.  Of all the programs running Build IT I feel that we have collaborated on the best Tech Field Trip. … Each presentation hit on one or more things that the girls have been working with. … I can assure you that the trip was a success because they all wanted to go back.  When we returned they were telling their friends about what they had done.” Below is a brief video of the day:

CAITE will continue the collaboration with Holyoke Girls Inc. as it develops “Build IT” in an after school format, hosts family tech nights, and involves IT professionals.