Lero wins Google global award to encourage girls to take up computing

Lero, the Irish Software Research Centre at the University of Limerick, has been named by Google as one of the global winners of the 2015 RISE Awards. Google’s RISE programme, which began in 2010, is designed to support organisations that encourage girls and underrepresented students in extracurricular computer science programmes.  This year Google will contribute $1.5m to 37 organisations in 17 countries.

Lero will utilise its $17,000 award to promote and organise computing summer camps at the University of Limerick aimed specifically at female secondary students from the age of 14 plus.

“As a society we must encourage more girls to take up computing,” commented Clare McInerney, Education and Outreach Manager at Lero. “Many girls are put off computing from an early age because of its nerdy, geeky image. We aim to show girls that much of computing is about problem solving and collaborative thinking and that computing can be applied in diverse and varied domains.”

She pointed out that the gender proportion in most IT undergraduate courses in Ireland is overwhelmingly male. “This is not in the interests of female careers or Ireland Inc at a time there is huge demand for IT skills. We are very appreciative to Google for this award.”

Lero, which is supported by Science Foundation Ireland, specialises in collaborative software research with a strong industry focus across six universities and the Dundalk Institute of Technology. Lero has also played a key role in encouraging primary school kids to learn about computing through its Scratch programme.

Lero also led the development of a schools course in computing which is due to be introduced to the Junior Cycle curriculum.

Over the last six years $4.3m in RISE Awards has been granted to 205 organisations across 25+ countries reaching over 200,000 students.

Commenting on the awards Roxana Shirkhoda, Outreach Program Manager at Google said, “As a company started by two students with a curiosity for creating technology, we recognise the role Google can play in exposing youth to computer science. It is critical for students, particularly girls, underrepresented minorities and students of low economic background, to recognise they have the power not only to consume technology - but create it.

“We’re invigorated by the work of the 2015 RISE Award winners and look forward to partnering with them to inspire the next generation of computer scientists around the world.”