I could not imagine a better way to celebrate my recent graduation from Wellesley College in Boston, Massachusetts. Just ten days after receiving my diploma, I left the United States to spend ten weeks in what can only be described as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It has been an incredible experience - my work with ORT SA CAPE has been truly enlightening, and I am constantly blown away by the stunningly beautiful sights of Cape Town.
My passion for the intersection of technology and education aligned perfectly with the mission of ORT SA CAPE, which strives to offer educational enrichment to children and teachers in impoverished schools and communities through reading and robotics. For my honours thesis in Computer Science, advised by Dr. Orit Shaer, I studied how commercially available tangible technology toys, such as littleBits and KIBO, can promote the development of computational thinking for children in early elementary school. At Wellesley, I also taught programming classes, led robotics workshops, and hosted a weekly "Girls Who Code" club for children in the local area. I was thrilled about the opportunity to do similar things in Cape Town, which started from a Friday night dinner conversation between Dr. Orit Shaer and Tracey Frankel.
While here, I have particularly enjoyed hosting two Girls in Action workshops with ORT SA CAPE. Even in the States, there is a huge gender gap in the technology industry; too many young girls are either discouraged from studying technology-related fields or are never given the opportunity to discover the technology world. It is true here in Cape Town too, and it's amazing to watch the workshop participants explore and learn together. As one 10-year old girl said at the end of our two-hour workshop, "Sometimes I thought that it was very hard to put things together, but it's actually quite easy."
In addition to encouraging more girls to pursue robotics and technology, I have also been working to integrate littleBits into ORT SA CAPE's robotics activities. littleBits, magnetic modules that snap together to create electronic circuits, are an exciting new toy that can help children learn sequencing. They also foster children's ability to develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, which can positively impact their self-esteem and ability to read.
It has been incredible to live and work in this beautiful city. In meeting children, parents, teachers, and other locals. I have learned so much about the history, culture, and nature here. The poverty is beyond heart breaking, but the views are breath taking - to read more about my journey and see photos, feel free to follow my blog: cs.wellesley.edu/~vlin/wp/blog/.
Wellesley College | Class of 2015
Computer Science & Economics Major
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