Virtual Conference Inspires Female Computer Science Students

If women are underrepresented in computer science (and they are, by a large margin), you wouldn’t know it from sitting in on the Grace Hopper Celebration. Each fall, for the last 20 years, tens of thousands of women have converged for a long weekend of collaboration, networking, mentoring and commemoration of their contributions to the tech world.

COVID-19 pushed this fall’s convention into a virtual format, but it didn’t prevent the University of Denver’s Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science from sending 26 students (plus seven faculty and one staff member) for free. A private donor and funds from the school’s diversity, equity and inclusion budget covered the costs.

In interviews via email and Zoom, the DU Newsroom asked Anndi Russell, a graduate student in the data science program; Izzy Johnson, an undergraduate pursuing a BS in computer science; and Scott Leutenegger, a computer science professor and the Ritchie School’s director of inclusive excellence, about their experience

What’s it like for each of you as a woman in computer science?

Anndi Russell: My program is more equal in terms of women and men than is true in the larger computing world. But before this, I worked in education for a few years — which is a very female-heavy industry typically — so I know switching into computer science and the tech world is going to be a little different. I’m grateful for having a lot of female classmates right now and people I’ve connected with. We support each other.

Izzy Johnson: As an undergrad, I think I was surprised by how many women were in my classes, but it’s definitely still weighted the other way. At DU specifically, I’ve really enjoyed how many female professors I’ve had. I’ve had some really influential female professors in the Ritchie School.

Scott,

Cornell students create Quarantine Buddy website to match friends

“You come on any time,” Benkendorf said from Sunrise, Fla. “I’ve got a dog you can play with. I’ve got a spare room. Anytime you need a vacation. If they close you down again, Stacie, you’re welcome.”

Weldon and Benkendorf have never met in-person, but over the past four months they’ve developed a friendship after matching with each other on a website. Quarantine Buddy, founded by two Cornell University students in April, matches people from around the world based on their background and interests, and they meet virtually.

The website has helped more than 50,000 people — spanning all 50 U.S. states and more than 100 countries — build friendships while stuck at home.

“We kind of realized how lonely and isolating this can be for so many people,” said Jordyn Goldzweig, a Quarantine Buddy co-founder. “The pandemic itself really brought out the fact that a lot of people are isolated, and even though we have technology, people aren’t utilizing it to meet other people. We really wanted to do our part.”

In March, Goldzweig and co-founder Sam Brickman left Cornell for their respective New Jersey and New York homes due to the coronavirus outbreak. A few weeks later, the junior computer science majors met with one of their professors, Pam Silverstein, on Zoom. After discussing a project, Silverstein expressed how thankful she was to speak with someone, because she hadn’t left her house in about a week.

Goldzweig and Brickman have worked on multiple projects together, including an application last year called “Zing” that connects classmates. They expanded that idea to assist people in situations such as Silverstein’s.

They spent two all-nighters shaping the website, staying awake on coffee and electronic dance music. They created a survey with nine questions that allows users to customize what they are looking

Free Internet plan to benefit some 6,500 varsity students

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) will be providing free Internet to its students from low-income families to help in their online learning process.

The university’s deputy vice-chancellor (student affairs) Prof Dr Durrishah Idris said new students from the B40 bracket would be given free 10GB Internet data monthly with unlimited access to class-related websites and apps such as Zoom, Cisco Webex and UTM e-learning.

“This is in line with the Higher Education Ministry’s call for universities to conduct classes online due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases.

“About 6,500 students, which is half of UTM’s student body, will benefit from the free Internet initiative as we want them to have a good online learning experience along with other students,” she said in a press conference.

She highlighted that the free Internet data plan had been given to 2,500 students since June 9, across three phases and phase four would begin soon.

The free Internet would be available to the students for two months, she added.

Prof Durrishah said 8,177 undergraduate and postgraduate students were scheduled to register for the new 2020/2021 semester from Oct 10 to 13.

“This includes about 3,000 new intakes who will only be required to register online and participate in online classes.

“As for the orientation activities for new students initially slated for Oct 11 to 14, it will be held fully online as well, to eliminate physical interaction.

“Students currently staying on campus, including those undergoing internship and doing research, are allowed to stay in their dormitories,” she said, adding that students who had paid their on-campus hostel fee could seek a refund from the university.

Prof Durrishah revealed that two international students were undergoing quarantine upon arrival at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur as part of the standard operating procedure before they were allowed

East St. Louis students lacking internet for remote learning

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) — Countless parents in East St. Louis say they are relying on minimal resources while struggling to gain internet access to help their children participate in remote learning at area schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

East St. Louis is a largely Black community where nearly 40% of residents live below the federal poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Melissa Lawson, a single mother of three who lives there while juggling multiple jobs, told the Belleville News-Democrat that she already had to make adjustments to get by before the pandemic after being severely injured in a car accident. She said some of the cutbacks included canceling internet service.

“Sometimes, we would go to a McDonald’s parking lot and use their Wi-Fi, and even with that, you only get so much with the hotspot,” Lawson noted. “Then you run into the problem of what if my laptop or my iPad dies. And I don’t have a nice car, so it doesn’t have the plug-ins to charge your phone and things like that.”

Two of Lawson’s children attend Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School, which provided hotspots to students after stay-at-home orders went into effect last spring.

“We found a lot of the students did not have adequate internet access,” said Dan Nickerson, the school’s principal for the past five years, who noted that around 35% of the roughly 100 families in his school had internet access challenges.

East St. Louis and neighboring Washington Park have 200 or less residential fixed internet connections per 1,000 households, the lowest rate in St. Clair County, according to an analysis of Federal Communications Commission data that was updated in 2019 based on census tracts. Primarily white and more upscale communities such as Belleville and O’Fallon have at least 800

Verizon, NMSU work together helping Columbus students access internet

LAS CRUCES – As online education becomes the new normal, many low-income families are struggling to find resources to allow their children to fully participate in classes. Nearly one-quarter of New Mexico’s students lack equipment and internet access at home.



a person standing in front of a brick building: Rosario Pando, assistant librarian of the Columbus Village Library sits at a computer in the library. Thanks to a $50,000 grant, New Mexico State University's computer science department is working with the Columbus Village Library to provide needed access to computers and internet access to students in Columbus, New Mexico.


© Courtesy photo / New Mexico State University
Rosario Pando, assistant librarian of the Columbus Village Library sits at a computer in the library. Thanks to a $50,000 grant, New Mexico State University’s computer science department is working with the Columbus Village Library to provide needed access to computers and internet access to students in Columbus, New Mexico.

As part of the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship COVID-19 Funding and Support program in collaboration with New Mexico State University’s computer science department, a one-year, $50,000 grant will provide both access to computers and critical online access to students in Columbus, New Mexico.

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“Less than half of our homes have internet access, primarily because it’s unaffordable for our lower-income citizens,” said Maria Constantine, the director of the Columbus Village Library. “This puts families at a disadvantage for educational and employment opportunities. This program will help level the playing field for kids and families to access the resources they need to improve their lives.”

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With the grant funding, in collaboration with Constantine at the Columbus Village Library, 30 laptop computers will be purchased to loan out to students through a check out process along with Wi-Fi range extenders outside of the library, which allow students to access the internet from the parking lot.

“During our initial process, we learned that at least 50 people were accessing the internet from their vehicles,” said Adan Delval, director of the Verizon Innovation Learning Program. “During this pandemic, we