Fort Mill Times

DigiGirlz rule Microsoft campus

Watch out, boys. For at least one week, girls were in the majority at Microsoft's Charlotte campus.

Eighty-six high school students, including Fort Mill High School freshman Holly Reynolds, converged on Microsoft's Charlotte campus Aug. 3 and spent the week soaking in information from experts in a variety of careers and technology fields.

DigiGirlz High Tech Camp is a week-long camp held at Microsoft campuses around the country for high school girls to help grow their interest in technology. Reynolds, along with the other campers, spent the week in various classes, including Making Games, presented by UNC graduate students, Podcasting and Web Design. Each one was presented by Microsoft employees.

A favorite class among campers, Reynolds said, was the Internet Safety course, taught by Internet safety expert Linda Criddle. Criddle showed the students how strangers can easily access information online by using Facebook and MySpace. She used students in the classroom as examples and showed the girls how she could get information about them online in minutes. Criddle offered suggestions for making their online information private. That class was the most informative, Reynolds said, and she is already using the information Criddle taught her.

“I'm still checking Facebook to make sure that all my videos and photos are only allowed to my friends,” Reynolds said.

Each camper filled out an online application, including answers to essay questions, that were included in the DigiGirlz camp. A team of Microsoft employees reviewed the more than 200 applications for the Charlotte camp and tried to select a diverse group of campers, including girls with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students and a wide range of ethnicities, according to DigiGirlz team members.

DigiGirlz classes were designed to encourage girls to learn more about technology. While an interest in technology was important for campers, technical expertise or an interest in a technology career was not a pre-requisite.

“I'd like to be a teacher when I grow up, so I don't think a career in technology would be for me. But it was fun and very interesting,” Reynolds said. “I like technology a lot. I'm a computer geek.”

This is the fourth year that DigiGirlz High Tech Camp was offered in Charlotte. The program was created in 2000 at Microsoft's Redmond, WA campus and is now held across the United States and Europe.

“We spent a week with an outstanding group of girls showing them how technology careers can be fun, exciting, and totally not what they would expect,” said DigiGirlz team member Kristie Nason, a Fort Mill native. “The students got the opportunity to spend time with a wide range of professionals in the field, and we, as Microsoft employees, got the opportunity to experience the energy and enthusiasm of these girls. Both groups walked away excited by the future possibilities in the technology field.”