Maryland today | “Breakthrough” digital skills across disciplines

The field of computing has both intrigued and intimidated Jennifer Opara-Ndudu, a film and media studies student. Then she was selected for Break Through Tech’s Summer Guild Schedule.

A national initiative with a site at the University of Maryland, Break Through Tech aims to boost underrepresented gender identity groups in tech education and, ultimately, tech careers. And it wasn’t just the IT majors that took part; this year’s Summer Guild program hosted 92 students from 24 majors representing nine UMD colleges and schools.

During Guild, Opara-Ndudu and his team created an app they called “Hangout Hub” to help students find events that matched their interests, while boosting their confidence in exploring tech-related careers. .

In addition to the block-based coding she and her teammates used to develop the Hangout Hub prototype, Opara-Ndudu said she learned how computing could be applied to areas that “might not seem initially compatible”. This was an important takeaway, as 75% of jobs will require advanced digital skills by 2030, regardless of field.

“For our second year of guild hosting at UMD, we really focused on bringing students to campus who haven’t had a chance to explore technology,” said Kate AtchisonBreak Through Tech DC to UMD Site Manager and UMD Associate Director Iribe Initiative for Inclusion and Diversity in IT. “These students have a low-risk opportunity to gain insight into the world of technology and see how they can apply their computer skills to their chosen field or interest.”

With three week-long summer sessions (two virtual and one in-person), freshmen and sophomores were paid to immerse themselves in design thinking and programming using thinkable Software. Beyond tech skills, they discovered remarkable women in tech, education and career opportunities, and more.

Guild students were mentored by 40 volunteers from Accenture, Capital One, Dropbox, Google, Mastercard, Microsoft, Salesforce and Verizon who helped guide their ideation and creative processes.

“What impressed me the most was that the whole idea for the app came out of a conversation about online identity,” said Kevin George, software engineer at Google who mentored the group. of Opara-Ndudu when creating Hangout Hub. “Topics of trust and privacy were a constant topic of discussion, and this group had great cohesion as they worked to come to a solution.”

To drive home this point, the Break Through Tech team partnered with a Baltimore-based tech company Without fear organize a virtual field trip National Museum of African American History and Culture. Fearless helped museum curators reimagine their in-person exhibits in a digital backgroundand deepening user interface design in an online museum context further piqued Opara-Ndudu’s interest in immersive media.

“I’m excited to continue what I started at Guild,” said Opara-Ndudu. “I plan to stay involved with Break Through Tech as I explore more technical areas associated with computing and find a way to incorporate my findings into my interest in media.”

This fall, Opara-Ndudu is enrolling in the “Introduction to Computer Programming via the Web” course to continue learning how technical skills can apply to her interests in the arts.

“I’m so proud of every student who participated in Guild this year, especially our students like Jennifer who strived to see how technology skills can be an asset in any career path,” said Elias Gonzalez. , chief innovation officer for the Break Through Tech program. “It’s so special for us at Break Through Tech to see these students become part of our post-Guild community.”

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