Students get a professional boost with Break Through Tech’s Guild program

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Team 6 at BTT Guild
Team 6 present their app project during the last day of Guild.

The 2022 Break Through Tech DC summer Guild program at George Mason took place in June. A hybrid approach allowed students to participate remotely, with the last day commencing with an in-person gathering at Dewberry Hall.

About 40 students participated in the Guild at Mason, which included interactive activities, presentations, and team projects. With networking opportunities mixed in, students from underrepresented backgrounds had a chance to do a deeper dive into their computing education and career paths through Guild.

According to Shvetha Soundararajan, Break Through Tech DC site lead at George Mason, the Guild program is intended to encourage women and students from underrepresented groups to explore computing in a meaningful way.

“Through the Guild, we showcase that computing is for all, it is inclusive and accessible, and that there are many more aspects to building software than just coding,” she says.

Guild participants worked in teams to develop an app, and present their work at the end of the week. First place went to team 2, and their app Sign With Me, which teaches preschoolers the alphabet in sign language.

Second place went to team 3 for the app Biome World, that helps educate elementary school students about biomes. Team 6 received third place for their app APventures, an AP level study app designed to feel like an adventure game.

“The 2022 Guild participants worked together in teams to create innovative and unique EdTech apps that are valuable,” says Soundararajan. “They worked very hard to create productivity, study, and collaboration apps for students of different age groups.”

Mason junior Helen Chen says Guild opened up the doors for her to learn coding, and even get in some public speaking practice.

I was so happy to learn JavaScript and create something with code for the first time,” says Chen. “Presenting our project to the professors and industry leaders was truly an unforgettable experience and I think it might have cured my fear of public speaking a little bit.”

Freshman Anabela Shearer says Guild was a great experience and it helped her feel more confident about pursuing a computing career.

“I was able to meet Mason students who are also pursuing a career in computer science,” says Shearer. “It helped me feel confident in my knowledge of coding. I have never coded before prior to Guild but it was easy for me to catch up with the others who have.”

Mentors from major corporations like Booz Allen Hamilton and Microsoft also attended Guild. According to Gerald Irish, senior software engineer at Microsoft, it’s important to contribute towards building a more inclusive industry for the next group of IT professionals.

 “Sometimes we take for granted how we navigated the challenges we faced while moving through the industry, so sharing our experiences can help students from underrepresented groups feel more comfortable navigating those challenges for themselves,” says Irish. “Going forward I hope the mentees we interacted with will use us as a resource for guidance, connections, or just as a sounding board to help them along the way.”

The Break Through Tech Guild program is open to all students with a focus on women and nonbinary individuals who are first and second year students. Students can be enrolled in any major or minor. No prior experience is required to apply for Guild. 

“The Guild and other BTT programs would not be possible without the support of our industry partners,” says Soundararajan. “For a second consecutive year, we received overwhelming support from our industry partners and industry mentors from Booz Allen Hamilton, Microsoft, Appian, and Accenture.”

About Break Through Tech 

Break Through Tech  works at the intersection of academia and industry to propel more women and underrepresented communities into technology degrees and careers. BTT DC is the first cross-institutional collaboration, partnering withMasonand theUniversity of Maryland.