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Iowa Girls Code Camp teaches young women about computer science

More than 50 girls attended the Iowa Girls Code Camp. (Steffi Lee, CBS2/FOX28)

Computer science is one of the fastest growing careers in the world.

But in the United States, only 18 percent of those who graduate and enter the field are women.

Cedar Rapids native and Iowa State University junior Kelsey Hrubes hopes she can change that, which is why she founded the Iowa Girls Code Camp.

"It's a shame that there aren't that many girls in computer science," she said. "I think it's really cool and the projects that I've done in the past have always had a cool design element to it."

She said she doesn't see why tech fields are male dominant.

"There's nothing inherently masculine about computer science," Hrubes said.

Hrubes said quite often, young women lose interest in math and science around middle school.

On Saturday, her mission to engage young women was successful. More than 50 girls, ranging from elementary to high school, attended the Iowa Girls Code Camp inside the Geonetric building.

Prairie High School senior Allyson Schmidt said this was a chance to work towards her dream. Schmidt says she loves coding.

"It's kind of easy for me," Schmidt said. "It's really interesting when you get to build everything. It's kind of like building with legos on a computer."

Her niece, Frances Lausen, was right by her side.

"I guess I just like being able to say, 'Hey, I made this. Look how cool it is,'" Lausen, who is a fourth grader, said.

Hrubes said these code camps aren't unusual to have. She's interned in Silicon Valley for Google and saw with her own eyes how engaged youth are with technology.

"What you see out in Silicon Valley is hacker clubs for high school students," she said. "Competitive hackathons where high school students participate."

She wants to bring that culture here to her home state. As a matter of fact, "Silicon Prairie" is just that - everything in the tech hub out west in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. "Flyover country" is now home to more than 100 startups.

Hrubes thinks the tech culture can grow here even more.

"I think there's just a lot of potential out here," she said. "The goal would be to get these girls interested in it and then they want to get more involved."

Schmidt and Lausen already have dreams to make this a reality.

"I actually do want to get a degree in computer science and I hope to have a job where I am designing websites," Schmidt said.

Lausen said she wants to make an app to help kids with cleaning their room and making that a game. She said all she needs to learn is to code it.

"Getting girls in (computer science) at such a young age is fundamental to the growth of Silicon Prairie if we want that to be a thing," Hrubes said. "I want to be a part of it. I could, of course, go out to California or New York. But I really think I could be involved in changing this scene and making this happen."


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