GRAHAM, N.C. — At Alamance Community College, a classroom filled with 20 Alamance County elementary and middle school girls are giving commands to devices called TJ Bots. But in order for the small cardboard cubes to work, the students had to put them together..
“They were able to look at the motherboard and see how it was set up and the components. Also they attached the jumper wires to connect to the motherboard and the LED lights,” said Lakeisha Vance, Alamance Community College department head for information technology.
The students then gave their bots a little personality. Some were covered in glitter. Another bot was painted to look like a ladybug. But the true test comes down to whether or not the bot could respond to commands. That’s when the programming lesson begins. Aleena Rasheed is only 9 years old. But she knows you have to pay extra attention to your command codes if you want your TJ Bot light to change color.
“If you don’t program right, like you have too much of a space, it won’t work right,” Aleena said. “If you spell something wrong and you don’t notice, it won’t work right.”
When you bring together the bot’s construction, assembly and coding, you get a pretty good idea about what it takes to be a computer programmer or robotic engineer. Those are some of the career fields that are growing and looking for workers. That’s why the “LIT” program was created. “LIT” stands for Ladies in Technology. It’s a week-long class designed to show young girls that there is a place for them in technical fields.
“If you look at their advertisement, a lot of the companies are including more diverse group of people in their advertising so that people will understand that all walks of life are welcomed,” Vance said.
That’s news 12-year-old Kendal Watlington wants to hear.
“I’ve always been around computers and robotics,” Watlington said. “So it’s very interesting how girls are now getting started in learning about robotics and stuff like that.”
For 12-year-old Anajah Ferges, the best part about technology is that you can shape it to fit your needs.
“I like the hands-on part and I like the technology part where you can switch it up any type of way. I like that because it helps you create something new to help the world eventually,” Ferges said.
The students also had the chance to work with female engineers from IBM. The Ladies in Technology class is funded by a faculty/staff grant from the Alamance Community College Foundation.