by Karishma Bhatia and April Tran
Community outreach connects Brown CS students to the Providence area. For more articles on how Brown CS students inspire and lead members of the greater Providence community click here.
On the surface, Artemis is a summer program geared towards teaching young girls computer skills, programming, and computer science concepts through a challenging curriculum. Yet to the individuals that actually go through the Artemis experience, we learn that Artemis is much, much more. Yes, the program is about learning the science behind the modern machines we use everyday, but perhaps just as important, it helps the amazing young ladies that attend Artemis to build confidence in themselves, in their ability to build relationships with others, and their capacity to self learn. Though we can only possibly glimpse a portion of what the Artemis experience is like for its students, as directors we have learned life lessons and gleaned inspiration from our young students.
As college undergraduates, in the midst of juggling multiple exams, papers, and projects, we often forget what it means to learn. Gone are the days in which making a small mistake for the sake of learning doesn't cost you a letter grade. Many of us no longer have the privilege or courage to test a teacher's or parent's patience with question upon question. We may never again have the opportunity or time to take complete advantage of our curiosity by letting our minds wander for hours or even days. Looking back, we realize just how valuable and precious such experiences were in our growth as students, innovators, and individuals. More broadly, we realize how important it is for our society---especially in academic institutions---to create such learning environments for youth in the community while continuing to encourage them to pursue their interests.
Artemis started as a program for inner-city girls entering ninth grade to learn computer science. This year, we focused on making Artemis a program that helped students not only discover computer science, but discover a creative way to use the concepts they learned in their own hobbies and interests. Sometimes that meant a student realizing she had a knack for web-design and building a website featuring the work of her favorite artist--other times it meant a student realizing she was a poet and building a website featuring her own work. Artemis helped these girls build confidence in their own skills and talents while adding to them. How can we put into words the beauty of Iris' glowing smile when her friends praised the personal works she put on her website? The sense of accomplishment Jamie had watching the game she built in Scratch run perfectly? Or the surge of confidence Desiree felt presenting her final project to a crowd of parents? How can we describe the satisfaction of seeing the understanding on our girls' faces after we explained a difficult concept?
By creating a positive association to computer science for our Artemis students, we ensure that they will not shy away from using technology to build creative solutions to relevant problems. They will not forgo their passions, they will not forget that they are capable of finding friends in the most unlikely people, and most importantly, they will not fear the challenge of learning something new.