Thirty eighth-graders in an all-girls engineering class at Clifton Middle School are learning how to write computer code and solve a series of web security and computer science challenges as part of HISD’s efforts to prepare students for college and career success in science and technology.
Eighth-grader Nancy Perez says the class has taught her how to encrypt and decrypt code, the difference between a bit versus a byte and how to group bits into bytes for efficiency, so the computer knows to send packets of information together.
“Math is really important in this class because coding involves everything from numbers to letters,” Perez said. “I never knew how much math was a part of coding until this class.”
On Nov. 15, the class participated in a high-school level computer science competition at Clements High School in Fort Bend ISD and placed second overall.
HISD is preparing students for future careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics by providing students more access to unique, hands-on learning opportunities in STEM and by bringing coding to more schools across the district.
Clifton, which has a STEM magnet program, is one of nine HISD schools to receive a coding grant from worldwide technology supplier Schlumberger to fund computer and technology equipment, trainings and STEM activities for students. The school also received a donation from Chevron and its Fuel Your School Program to help fund programming for engineering and technology classes.
Clifton engineering teacher Jawad Tahirii says it’s important to pay special attention to girls’ access to STEM education and activities like coding in order to bridge the gender gap.
“Having only girls in the classroom provides them with a safe environment that encourages them to take risks and be themselves, without the added pressure or distraction that having boys in the class brings,” Tahiri said. “Through teaching, bringing in female engineer guest speakers, and classroom discussions, we remind girls that they are as capable as boys to do well in engineering, because there are no “boys- only” fields of study.”