Diversity & Inclusion
STEM / Women in tech

How ProjectCSGirls introduces middle schoolers to creating tech for social good

Pooja Chandrashekar founded the organization while in high school. Now it's growing internationally.

Winners of ProjectCSGirls' 2018 competition. (Photo via Facebook)

While a sophomore in high school at Northern Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Pooja Chandrashekar founded ProjectCSGirls to introduce computer science to more middle school girls. In the first year, it grew to have local chapters around the country. Chandrashekar has since graduated from Harvard College, and ProjectCS Girls started adding chapters internationally. Gathering in libraries and community centers, each chapter is youth-run.

When putting together the programming it was equally important to Chandrashekar to show how technology could be used. So from the beginning, using technology for social change has been intertwined with the education that ProjectCSGirls provides. The organization runs a competition in which students are challenged to both identify a social issue and create a tech tool to help address the issue. Local chapters also run workshops, which are similarly oriented around social issues.

“We never teach technology without social good or social good without technology,” Chandrashekar said.

The organization is looking to further growth, and some recent funding will help. ProjectCSGirls received a $5,000 grant from the D.C.–based Society for Science & the Public. It’s one of seven organizations around the country to receive a STEM Action Grant from the nonprofit.

“The Society for Science & the Public seeks to provide funding to nonprofit organizations that reach underserved populations, providing students with meaningful STEM experiences that spark a lifelong interest in and appreciation for STEM fields,” Chief Communications Officer Gayle Kansagor said of the program. “We are especially interested in organizations that program unique programming.”

In all, the organization awarded $30,000 in grants this summer.

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