Madilynn Whittle, a junior Computer Science major, is introducing young girls to computer coding because she knows they have the power to create change. Women who pursue careers in technology have the opportunity to advance science, bridge the gender gap and inspire more women to make a difference using technology as a tool for change.
A high school elective course in programming and design sparked her interest in technology, setting her on a path to help her peers, especially young minority women, to confidently enter a male-dominated field.
“I’m interested in using technology to make people’s lives better. If it were 100 years ago, I would be using different tools, but today, to make change, it is technology,” she said.
This semester, Whittle accepted a fellowship with Interactive Mechanics, a non-profit digital design firm in Philadelphia. The fellowship is expanding her skills and providing a gateway for her to build a local partnership between Stockton and Atlantic City High School where young girls will be exposed to university resources and paired with Stockton student mentors offering high school students enhanced computer science experiences.
At Interactive Mechanics she is the only college student and the youngest fellow. Her co-workers in the program are mid-career professionals. Whittle is grateful to the Office of Service-Learning for introducing her to the fellowship and believing in her abilities.
Her dream is to design a program like TechGirlz, which is a non-profit that helps girls explore science through fun workshops and experiences with experts, on a local level. Her expanding skillset and love for technology fuel this dream.
“Mostly, it is important for young women to see themselves in science and technology roles, to recognize that they can understand science-based fields,” she explained.
Whittle, who is from Newtonville, in Atlantic County, N.J., has seen firsthand the excitement and motivation that science inspires in young girls. “I want to do this,” is something she heard over and over again this past summer from middle school girls who attended Tech Trek, a one-week residential, hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) camp at Stockton.
Campers flew drones, launched rockets using Mentos and soda, crafted underwater flashlights and cracked codes to learn about cyber security. “They loved it,” said Whittle, who was proud of their success tackling challenging experiments.
We told the campers that they could make anything they wanted using Stockton’s 3D printer, she explained. Their imaginations quickly started to churn and in no time, a string of plastic filament was being melted and molded into the once-again popular Pokémon figures and characters from Star Wars.
At Stockton, Whittle is a Bonner Leader in the Service-Learning Office where she serves as an advocate for social change by receiving training and volunteering her time to provide community service. A few times each week, Whittle goes to Stanley Holmes Village in Atlantic City for the homework completion program. Aside from helping with assignments in a variety of subjects, she leads arts and crafts with 30 or so energetic students who appreciate spending time with Stockton student volunteers and members of the Atlantic City Police Department, who together manage the program.
Her journey at Stockton is guiding her interest in “using technology to raise the voices of people who are traditionally marginalized or invisible in our society,” she explained.
The Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) summer program gave her a head start by helping her develop relationships with other incoming freshmen and faculty through 5 a.m. calisthenics followed by rigorous academics. The friendships she built are long-lasting. Seeing a fellow EOF student in the hall brings back good memories. She currently serves as the public relations chair for the Alliance of EOF Students of New Jersey.
“Don’t be afraid to try new things,” is her advice to students.
“You don’t have to love everything in the STEM field. Just find the areas that you love and focus on them,” she explained.