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Cheap summer camp gets girls tech-ready

For upcoming generations, “I can’t code” is going to be the new “I can’t read.”

We’re all starting to understand the importance of science, technology, engineering and math education. But we may be underestimating just how crucial they really are, and how quickly they’re gaining vital importance.

Technology is one of the fastest-growing, best-paying career fields out there. By 2020, there will be 2.4 million openings in STEM jobs, more than half of them involving computers and coding, according to estimates by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Unfortunately, very few women pursue jobs in that booming industry. Just 18 percent of students working on computer science bachelor’s degrees right now are female. Only 29 percent of those employed at major tech firms are women.

That’s why Western New York STEM Hub, SUNY Buffalo State and the Girl Scouts of Western New York have teamed up to create “It’s Your World! Develop it!,” a computer coding class exclusively for girls and sponsored by AT&T.

The five-month program is open to girls in grades 7 through 12 who live in Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

It starts next month with a Coding Day Camp for Girls, which teaches computer programming basics. The camp takes place weekdays from July 18 to 29 at Buffalo State’s Technology Building, home of the college’s Computer Information Systems Department, at the center of campus (1300 Elmwood Ave.).

Each day will include at least 90 minutes of coding, plus some STEM and Girl Scout Leadership Experience programming.

Girls will get hands-on experience creating their own technology. They’ll team up on coding projects designed to directly affect their schools and communities so they can see the real-world implications of their work.

Under the mentorship of local tech professionals, the girls will create apps, digital storyboards, animated movies, learning games or websites.

Instructors will come from the Computer Information Systems Department and Computers For Children, a nonprofit organization based in Buffalo. Additional instruction will come from the female coders of Girl Develop It. Girl Scouts of Western New York staff will provide leadership instruction. WNY STEM Hub developed and convened the program.

The program continues after school and on weekends through the end of December.

Ready for the best part? The registration fee is only $25. Crazy, right? And get this: it includes a one-year membership to the Girl Scouts.

Participants without computer access can borrow a free, refurbished laptop throughout the duration of the program.

To register, visit gswny.org and click on the “It’s Your World!” link under “Upcoming Events” on the home page.

If that doesn’t float your boat, there are lots of other ways to immerse your kids in tech.

The easiest, which also happens to be free, is to visit Code.org and click on “Hour of Code.” Kids will learn to build their own “Monster High” and “Hot Wheels” games, draw with JavaScript, and code with fun games featuring “Star Wars,” “Frozen” and “Minecraft” characters.

If your kids are going to be on their phones this summer, they might as well be monkeying around at Code.org.

Got consumer tips or questions? email schristmann@buffnews.com, tweet @discountdivasam or “like” Facebook.com/DiscountDiva.