Mother McAuley earns spot in Amazon’s Future Engineers program

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Mother McAuley seniors Fiona Biondic and Moira Staudacher work on a project Jan. 23 during the school’s STEM week. (Photo by Kathleen Kelly/Mother McAuley)

Students at Mother McAuley Liberal High School will benefit next year from the school’s participation in Amazon’s Future Engineers program.

The school is launching a new computer science course — AP Computer Science Principles — with the help of professional development provided by Amazon. Students in the class will receive cloud-based resources to help them prepare for the AP exam, and those who are successful in the class will be eligible for $10,000 college scholarships.

Those same students can then qualify for an internship at Amazon during their freshman and sophomore years in college.

“Resources and programs are essential to direct and foster girls’ interest in STEM.” said Eileen O’Reilly, principal of Mother McAuley. “Mother McAuley was founded on the premise of empowering women, and this exciting partnership with Amazon supports our efforts to help our students develop skills and talents that will benefit their own education and career aspirations, while narrowing the gap between the number of women and men in STEM professions.”

O’Reilly said she believes that is one reason McAuley was chosen for the program.

It’s too soon to say exactly how many students will take advantage of the program, but so far, the number of students expressing interest in either the AP Computer Science Principles class or the Computer Science Essentials class the school already offers is more than double the number of students who are taking computer science this year, said Kim Turnbull, who chairs McAuley’s science department.

Turnbull and O’Reilly said the school has already been working on ways to encourage girls to consider careers in programming or engineering.

The school participates in Girls Who Code and has a team building an autonomous model car already, and held a STEM week where students who are already involved in computer science introduced other students to some of the things they do.

“We want to make sure girls have more opportunity to experience the collaborative side of computer science,” Turnbull said. “There’s a lot of collaboration, a lot of support, a lot of creativity that is needed.”

Girls also need to try it to see whether it’s something they want to do, O’Reilly said.

“The skill set is different than it is for other math or science classes,” she said. “So just because geometry isn’t your thing doesn’t mean you won’t like this.”



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