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All girls, all tech

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - Sisters Ashley and Savannah Loberger are all smiles during Girls Get IT camp, an all-girls science and engineering camp that Savannah created and Ashley is directing this summer.The future of technology is bright ... pink.

For two weeks this month, Hillsboro High School’s computer and technology labs were filled with eager girls — all wearing bright pink T-shirts and delving into computer programming, robotics and everything high-tech.

It was the fifth year of the summer Girls Get IT (Innovative Technology) camp, founded in 2011 by Savannah Loberger, who at the time was a student at Hillsboro High. She designed and organized the camp as her Girl Scouts Gold Award project, the scouting organization’s highest award.

The week-long, half-day camps for girls in grades 7 to 12 were intended to introduce girls to computers, engineering and robotics, familiarizing them with the tools and lingo of the trade — all in a low-pressure, supportive and positive learning environment.

From computer programming to video game designing to 3-D printing and baking — all of the camp’s activities focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning.

The idea took off, and a second week was added the second year of the camp.

COURTESY PHOTO - Girls work together on many engineering activities, including fun with Legos.Five years down the road, the camp is still going strong, bigger and better than ever, with 40 girls attending each of the two sessions of camp.

This year’s camp director is Savannah’s younger sister, Ashley, who graduated from Hilhi in June.

Savannah is teaching at the camp this summer. She attends Oregon State University and is majoring in applied computer science.

Ashley was a middle school student in the first year of the Girls Get IT Camp.

“I wasn’t super into STEM before my sister introduced me to it,” Ashley said. “She encouraged me. I joined the robotics team (at Hilhi) my freshman year.”

And Ashley has never looked back. In fact, she’ll literally be reaching for the stars this fall at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona — where she’ll major in aerospace engineering.

“I didn’t expect it would get as big as it did,” Savannah said.

Girls Get IT, in fact, has garnered attention from all over the high-tech sector in Hillsboro and beyond. Intel is a sponsor of the camp. Hillsboro School District’s technology department provides the

space and access to the technology.

The National Center for Women & Information Technology awarded Ashley a national 2015 Aspirations in Computing Award and grant for her work.HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - Ashley Loberger (foreground) and Colleen Foster, a rising junior at Glencoe High School, celebrate Colleens successful programming of LED lights.

Guest speakers come in every day to speak to the girls about career opportunities in the engineering field. A favorite this year was Ben Howard, a Hilhi graduate and founding partner of HoneyComb Corporation, an agricultural drone company.

Howard brought along a couple of drones to demonstrate, which, Ashley said, the girls enjoyed.

“A lot of people come in as a guest and stay the whole day,” she said.

The Lobergers’ efforts have not gone unnoticed by the local community. The two young women and were named the 2015 Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Youth.

The key to the Girls Get IT success, the sisters agree, is the self-sustaining aspect of the program. All the teachers and helpers started as Girls Get IT students and return to help pass on what they have learned.

In fact, said Savannah, all of the young women who have taught at the camp are either working in or pursuing a degree in the tech industry.

At the July camp, Ashley said, the girls “gain a lot of confidence. They’re comfortable, so they ask more questions.”

One camper, Ashleigh Johnson, put it succinctly: “Girls are cooperative; boys are competitive.”

Ashley and Savannah have spent countless hours giving advice and helping others get similar programs started across the country — about 70 so far.

Next week, in fact, St. Mary’s Academy in downtown Portland will hold a three-day STEM workshop based on the Girls Get IT curriculum, led by MaryCatherine Morgan, herself a Girls Get IT alum.

A big group of VIPs visited the last day of camp July 24 to help celebrate the fifth anniversary of Girls Get IT.

Hillsboro School Board member Lisa Allen was a guest at the celebration. “I was so impressed,” Allen said. “I know plenty of adults who can’t do the things those girls were doing — coding, robotics.”

Allen said she spoke to several of the young women who teach at the camp. “They’ve changed what they want to do” because of their introduction to STEM through Girls Get IT.

“It’s literally changing lives,” she added.

Friday’s celebration included demonstrations and speeches, and was followed by plenty of congratulations, smiles and cake.

Naturally, the cake was ... pink.


kfuller@hillsborotribune.com
On Twitter: @ReporterFuller

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