SMHS Robotics Mentorship Team Leads to National Computing Award

SMHS Robotics Mentorship Team Leads to National Computing Award

March is Women’s History Month. A teacher and students at Spruce Mountain High School are making a difference that could have lasting impacts for women in the future. This is the first in a series about these people.

Kymberly Bryant and Spruce Mountain High School received a national award for promoting computer science to female students. Livermore Falls announcer file photo

JAY – Kymberly Bryant and Spruce Mountain High School recently received a national award, but it might never have happened without his involvement with the school’s former robotics team.

“My work mentoring the robotics team is actually what got me into teaching computer science,” she wrote in a recent email. “A mother of robotics students saw that Project Login offered to teach interested teachers how to teach computer science, and she saw the need for a female teacher, and not necessarily a science or math teacher, to take on this role.

“She thought it might convince some female students that they could do well in computer science even though they might not consider themselves STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) students,” Bryant noted. “If it hadn’t been for his suggestion, I never would have had the opportunity to teach the classes I teach now.”

Bryant taught English for 25 years, but was always very passionate about technology and computers. She has a master’s degree in technology and coursework, but never intended to teach computer science alone.

Bryant has worked with SMART – the school’s old robotics team, directed theater productions and held lip-sync competitions as part of one of his classes.

In 2015, she was recognized by PBS LearningMedia as one of its 30 Lead Digital Innovators. She received an all-expenses-paid trip to Philadelphia to attend the 2015 PBS LearningMedia Digital Summit and the International Society for Technology in Education conference.

In 2019, Bryant made the video recording of a middle school project considered Maine’s best. In 2020, she helped form a district-wide equity committee.

“I just thought I would always incorporate technology into the classes I was already teaching, like our hands-on history classes and our communications classes,” she wrote.

Bryant has other projects underway to encourage girls and others to get involved with computers.

“This school year I started a Girls Who Code chapter at the middle/high school level for girls and college students,” she wrote. “I have a very small but fun group of girls and we hope to increase our numbers over the years.

“One problem with after-school groups is that I compete with other big after-school activities for time,” she noted. “Many of the girls who are interested in Girls Who Code are also involved in other opportunities. Hopefully in the future we can carve out time that works for everyone.

Next year, Bryant will be offering fun electives in programming and hopes to enroll girls in those classes as well.

“As more and more girls take classes, participate in robotics or Girls Who Code and share their success with their friends, I hope more girls will participate in these activities,” she wrote. “I find it encouraging that we currently only have two students participating in robotics with the Mt. Blue Robotics team, and they’re both girls.”

The College Board’s 2021 AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award in Principles of AP Computing was awarded to 760 schools nationwide. Spruce was the only recognized school in Maine.

“The award is based on the number of female students, as a percentage, who took the AP Computer Science course and subsequent AP test last year,” Bryant wrote.

Until this year, Bryant was an English teacher who also taught a computer class. She now teaches a variety of technology classes without having time in her schedule for computer classes. Prior to the change, 18 students were enrolled in Principles of AP Computing, about double the usual number.

“Next year, I plan to include more computer science and programming courses in my offerings, take up the principles of AP computing as well as add a computer design and programming course. ‘applications and an introduction to the course of play,’ wrote Bryant. “Mark Ostroff, a high school math teacher, also teaches programming classes and will be offering the AP Computer Science A course which is a continuation of the Computer Science Principles course.

“The programs Mark and I use are from,” she noted. “These are incredible, robust programs of study that have been designed to be inclusive of all students.”

Bryant also works for and Maine’s Project Login teaching workshops for teachers on how to implement the programs in classrooms and schools.

“Our goal in these workshops is to promote these courses to students who might not think they could succeed in an AP course or a programming course and to teach students with all levels of computer literacy” , she wrote.

“The study of computer science can open doors for students, give them the tools to excel and prepare them for well-paying careers, but girls have been left behind for far too long,” according to the College Board AP website. “That’s why the College Board honors schools for expanding young women’s access to AP computer science classes and for the important steps they’re taking to achieve gender parity.” Schools receiving the AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award have achieved 50% or more female representation in one or both AP Computer Science courses, or a percentage of women taking the Computer Science exam that meets or exceeds that of the female population of the school. ”

“There are very few schools in the state that have received [the award] since its debut in 2018,” Bryant wrote. “The award is based on the number of female students, as a percentage, who took the AP Computer Science course and subsequent AP test last year.

“I have been working for three years to build enrollment for the class and to include more young women, students with disabilities, LGBTQ students and students with learning disabilities in this class,” noted Bryant. “It really is a class where anyone can learn computer science and programming.”