Disrupting the Gender Gap in Computer Science
We’re excited to introduce you to STEM trailblazer Kavya Kopparapu. At just 16 years old and a rising senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Washington, D.C., Kavya is on a mission to introduce more girls to STEM. Her nonprofit, GirlsComputingLeague, has allowed her to reach thousands of girls and speak at numerous distinguished STEM events across the country. During the Tiger Woods Foundation’s DC STEM Fair Teacher Seminar, held in collaboration with the D.C STEM Network this past March, we had the opportunity to see Kavya in action as she co-led a professional development class with our instructor. Without a doubt, Kavya Kopparapu is one to watch—and we can’t wait to see where she goes. Read on to hear from Kavya herself, watch her dynamic speech at the March for Science and learn more about her passion for STEM.
April 22nd, Earth Day, also marked the March for Science in Washington, D.C., a gathering of scientists to protest the devaluation of the scientific fields and the need for a sense of community in the sciences. I had an amazing opportunity to address the crowd of thousands of science supporters for two minutes as a main-stage speaker.
My speech was about the importance of science, specifically computer science education for all in accordance with my own experiences as a student at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. As a female computer science student, I have experienced first-hand the pressure and discouragement that minority students feel when entering the white male-dominated STEM fields. In my AP Computer Science class during my freshman year, I was only one of 8 girls in a class of 30. And that ratio only continued to drop as I advanced to upper-level computer science. In my artificial intelligence class right now, there are only 5 girls.
Driven by a need to combat this problem, I founded GirlsComputingLeague, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that encourages girls to get interested in computer science and technology. With my team of volunteers, we’ve reached thousands of students through Java classes, robotics/HTML/app development classes and partnerships with organizations such as the local Housing Authorities.
In March, through the D.C. STEM Fair and Tiger Woods Foundation’s professional development workshops, we even had the opportunity to show educators how to incorporate programming and computer science into their school curriculum. What’s amazing is that teachers who taught humanities subjects such as history and English were equally as interested in learning to code and showing their students coding fundamentals as the science and technology teachers!
The March for Science was also my opportunity to march for the computer science fields as a whole. Computer science is often regarded as separate from the rest of science– and outsider– but in our modern day and age, it’s the foundation for every other advancement. Looking out in the crowd I saw signs for just about every field of STEM– medicine, geology, physics, chemistry– and hope that inclusive community will continue past today.
The march was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Despite the rainy weather, there was a huge turnout, which makes me very optimistic for the future of science and for future generations. Although the circumstances for the march were unfortunate, the act of the scientific community coming together as a whole and taking a stand will no doubt have large effects on STEM support from the government.
Redefining what it means to be a champion.