June 13, 2014

LSU College of Engineering's Society of Peer Mentors has been chosen to receive the National Center for Women and Technology’s Student Seed Fund gift, sponsored by Symantec.

The NCWIT Academic Alliance partnered with Symantec to offer the NCWIT Student Seed Fund, a $1,000 award given to student-run programs and initiatives that promote increased participation of females in computing and IT programs.

LSU College of Engineering's Society of Peer Mentors has been chosen to receive the National Center for Women and Technology’s (NCWIT) Student Seed Fund gift, sponsored by Symantec.

The NCWIT Academic Alliance in partnership with Symantec, awards $1,000 annually to select student-run programs and initiatives that promote increased participation of females in computing and IT programs. Samantha Fadrigalan, computer science major, created and submitted the grant proposal on behalf of the Society of Peer Mentors (SPM). SPM members frequently conduct outreach events to local middle and high schools and will use the award funds to purchase reusable material for hands-on activities at computer science outreach and workshop events.

“The focus of our grant proposal is an Arduino, a single-board microcontroller used to develop stand-alone interactive objects,” said Fadrigalan. “We hope to make computer science more attractive and less intimidating by familiarizing students to the subject through interactive Arduino projects. For instance, a traffic light simulation could be made using an Arduino and corresponding physical outputs. Students can then tinker with the Arduino while a Peer Mentor explains the mechanisms and programming.”

“Many high schools in Louisiana do not offer computer science classes, and the myth about computer science being a difficult subject is prevalent among students, especially female students, due to its very abstract nature. The goal of this project idea is to present computer science not only through code, but also through a hands-on approach, to show female students that computer science is something they could pursue.”

Fadrigalan’s outreach demo will be debuted at the College’s Project N’Jneer middle school camp this summer. “I am very excited that the 5th and 6th grade camp participants will get an opportunity to learn about computer science in a very interactive way,” said Summer Dann, faculty advisor on the Seed Fund. Samantha is a wonderful role model for younger students because she is extremely knowledgeable in computer science and a good leader.”

The Society of Peer Mentors is a student organization founded in 2010 that focuses on mentoring and student leadership for the College of Engineering. The organization is under the supervision of the STEM Talent Expansion Program and its goal is to increase student graduation rates from the College of Engineering. This year, the Society of Peer Mentors has volunteered for over 2500 hours in a variety of college and outreach events. For more information on the Society of Peer Mentors, visit www.step.eng.lsu.edu/peermentors.

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