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Can Early Experiences With Computers, Robots Increase STEM Interest Among Young Girls?

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A young girl uses a laptop.

A study by the University of Washington's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences cound that young girls exposed to computer programming were more interested in technology and had more positive views of their technology skills compared to non-participatin

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Six-year-old girls exposed to a computer-programming activity had more interest in technology and more positive outlooks about their own skills compared to non-participants, according to a study from the University of Washington's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS).

I-LABS researcher Allison Master says the study suggests a desire and an opportunity for teaching computer science in elementary school.

The study involved boys and girls participating in several activities, including programming a robot's movements, which significantly reduced the gender gap in tech interest and self-efficacy.

"If you give them equal access to the same opportunities, then girls and boys have the same response--equal interest and confidence," Master notes.

I-LABS co-director Andrew Meltzoff notes bringing the girls' interest and motivation in science, technology, engineering, and math up to the level of the boys is the most significant finding.

However, despite the activities, children's stereotypical perception of boys as more tech-adept than girls was not altered.

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