Playing a video game that teaches basic computer coding are, front to back, Jocelyn Corletto, Natalie Sampson, Izabelly Diaz, Abigail Whittington & Adrianna Smith.
By Ron Benningfield
Walk into one of the classrooms at LaRue County High School about 2 p.m. on any early-release Friday and you are likely to see about 20 female elementary students energetically engaged in learning about technology.
They are members of the IFIT(Innovative Females in Technology) Club, newly formed as a means of increasing female roles in the world of technology.
Sarah Cooper, an LCHS senior, has had a large role in the club’s formation through a $2,000 award by Aspirations In Technology in partnership with the National Center for Women in Technology.
According to its website (https://www.ncwit.org/project/aspireit-k-12-outreach-initiative-girls) NCWIT AspireIT partners with NCWIT member organization and Aspirations in Computing high school and college community members with kindergarten-through-twelfth-grade girls interested in computing.
“When I applied for an NCWIT award, I was chosen as honorable mention,” said Cooper, the daughter of Kathy and the late Roger Cooper of Hodgenville. “I was later surprised with the notification that some people at AIT were impressed with my NCWIT leadership essay and encouraged me to apply for a grant.”
Cooper chose to work with the district’s fourth and fifth grade girls.
“At that grade level they are open to new things and are eager to learn them,” she reasoned.
When she accompanied LCHS technology teacher Jorge Venegas to Hodgenville Elementary School to gauge interest in learning more about technology, she was hopeful that perhaps 14 or 15 of the girls there would express a desire to join.
“We had 57 girls at HES that showed interest with 40 signing up for the club,” she said. “I was shocked, but thought the response was phenomenal.”
The large number of HES prospects posed a space problem, however, plus she hadn’t even polled Abraham Lincoln’s fourth and fifth grade girls about their interest in the club.
“I decided to alternate the grades at HES, having fourth graders transported here one week with the fifth-grade girls coming every other Friday,” she explained.
Three LCHS schoolmates—sophomores Jada Hunter-Hays and Katherine Massie, and senior Morgan Holcomb--joined her to lead and assist club members with Theresa Banks, LCHS technology resource technician, overseeing the effort.
“We’ll work with the HES students until around Thanksgiving, and will start the ALES group in January to continue until the end of the school year,” Cooper said.
HES students first met August 31 and have been busily engaged working toward three goals: computer coding, simple machine building, and building/programing robots that will be able to pick up things as well as have sounds and sensors.
Cooper and Hunter-Hayes will present photos and highlights of the club’s work at the Kentucky Student Technology Leadership Program’s regional competition December 4 at Western Kentucky University.
“As far as I know, we may be the first program like this in the state that has united elementary students into expanding female roles in technology,” said the 17-year-old straight “A” honor student.