All-Female Team Wins Hackathon

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For as long as I can remember, I have always loved math and science. At Davidson, these interests have led me to pursue majors in Computer Science and Mathematics. However, I have also always known about and been confused by the stereotype that females can’t do STEM. Personally, I can’t not do STEM. My first STEM class at Davidson was Linear Algebra where I was one of about five girls in the class of about 20 students. While this didn’t scare me away, it did surprise me. More recently, while I was giving a tour for the admissions department on campus, a prospective student asked me about the ratios of females in my computer science classes, which are usually about 1/4 to 1/6 female. Her questions struck me because I could not answer why there were not more women in these classes.

HackathonHaving talked with other female students in STEM departments, I know that I am not the only one to realize that we are always in the minority in our classes. But what can we do to fix this and even out the ratios? Flash forward to September 2018. I, along with three other members of Davidson’s “FICSIT” (Females in Computer Science and Information Technology) club, Natalie Kucher ’19, Sarah Hancock ’21, and Eleni Tsitinidi ’21, signed up to compete in the on-campus Hackathon held at The Hurt Hub. Our task for the 8-hour workday was to create a product that shared the experience of Davidson College with a designated audience. My team, which was the only all-female team in the entire Hackathon, decided to create a resource to hopefully encourage more females to try out STEM classes.

As a team, we believed the lack of female students involved in STEM was not because of a lack of interest from our fellow female Wildcats, but from the stereotype that women cannot do science scaring them away. Our plan was to share the experience of a Davidson woman in STEM with high school and college-age women interested in a STEM career. We hoped that this would serve several purposes. One, we would spread the message that women actually can do science by spotlighting different women connected to the Davidson community and their successes, such as research and awards, in their STEM fields. Additionally, we specifically wanted to impress upon our audience that Davidson was a welcoming community where people could try any field they wanted. Lastly, we wanted to provide a support system for the women already involved in STEM or looking to be involved in STEM by coding a program that would match them with a mentor. When a user went to our web app, they Hackathon Winnerswould see a welcome message and our “Spotlight Story” that would link to the full article about that month’s wonderful woman in STEM whose story we wanted to share. Additionally, along the side would be a menu that led users to take a trivia quiz, to fill out the survey to be matched with a mentor and get their contact information, or to the archives of more stories of exceptional women.

While we did not finish the coding to make the web app fully functional, we did win the “Best Overall” award for our work and I believe that all of us who worked on the project enjoyed building something that we saw as a wonderful effort to help our fellow and future females in STEM at Davidson. Additionally, Eleni Tsitinidi and I plan to continue working on this project to finish the coding.

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Marianna Ghirardelli

Marianna Ghirardelli '21 is a Computer Science and Mathematics double major and member of Davidson’s “FICSIT” (Females in Computer Science and Information Technology) club.

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