Qatar CS reaches out to local girls

Carnegie Mellon’s Qatar campus created an outreach program, called CS4Qatar for Women, to bring women into the field of computer science. The program is part of CMU-Q’s broader CS4Qatar agenda. Reem Al-Mansoori, former e-inclusion manager and current information and communication technology skills development manager at Qatar’s ICT regulatory body, ictQatar, started the CS4Qatar program. According to CMU-Q’s website, CS4Qatar is “a series of Computer Science workshops for secondary students,” which are “designed for students in Qatar who want to broaden their horizons in the ever-expanding and broad-reaching field of computer science.”

Khaled Harras, a CMU-Q computer science professor heavily involved in the program, said via email that the workshop “marks an inevitable collaboration with ICT Qatar [sic] in helping [Carnegie Mellon] deliver the message of the importance of computing education and awareness in Qatar.”

Ninety high school students out of 200 applicants attended the women’s program. They listened to a discussion panel and took part in a workshop on the 3-D graphics tool Alice and on puzzle and problem solving. “The focus on females this year is simply because they are half the society and in this culture, in this part of the world, it is even more crucial to reach out to this half,” Harras said. “The focus on female students is also an international trend to better balance gender involvement in rigorous engineering and sciences programs.”

Maryam Ali, a senior computer science major, studied at CMU-Q in the spring of 2011. “The classes are much smaller,” she said. “Every professor knows every student in their class.” According to Ali, there is a substantial amount of female participation in computer science on the Qatar campus. “The gender make-up is different, about 50–50,” Ali said.

Natalie Hildebrandt, a junior computer science major who is currently studying at CMU-Q, said via email, “The most noticeable academic experience that CMU Qatar offers is personalized instruction. The class sizes here are small, your professor’s door is always open for help or for conversation.” Hildebrandt said that she supports the idea of engaging all Qatar residents in pursuing the education that they desire. “Educational outreach is very needed here compared to in the States, as there are fewer universities serving a more diverse high school population,” Hildebrandt said.

This April, CMU-Q will hold a CS4Qatar event that will detail opportunities for undergraduate research in the field of computer science, featuring female computer science students and professionals as panelists.

Harras said, “Our goal in CS4Qatar is to help spread this awareness among the younger generations … by reaching out to the students and exposing them to technological and computer science basics. We hope that through this work and effort by Carnegie Mellon, we plant a seed that continues to grow the students’ interest, motivation, and excitement in these crucial areas of knowledge.”