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Austin middle school coding camp for girls receives unique surprise

Some Austin middle school girls got a unique surprise Tuesday morning at their robotics summer camp.

AUSTIN -- Some Austin middle school girls got a unique surprise Tuesday morning at their robotics summer camp.

The BEST Robotics' Camp Code for Girls works to provide hands-on experience with computer coding and programming for middle school girls. Female students entering sixth grade through eighth grade are allowed to join the three-day, 12-hour coding camp.

Tuesday morning, the Texas Instruments' STEM Squad stopped by to introduce them to their new robotic car, Rover, and teach it to dance. This STEM Squad is traveling all over the country this summer to provide kids of all ages with different ways to keep them interested in math and science skills during the summer. Peter Balyta is the President of Educational Technology at Texas Instruments, and he said the summer is the perfect time to have kids experiment with math, science and engineering.

"We just love going around to schools and summer camps throughout the country and introducing kids to STEM activities that we've designed with fun in mind, knowing that we have to work extra hard to keep kids engaged in STEM during the summer months," Balyta said. "Our goal is to help them want to pursue more advanced math and science classes so that they can go on to college and pursue a STEM career. Even if they don't pursue a STEM career, this gives them problem solving, creative thinking, teamwork and communication. That's amazingly helpful for whatever career you choose."

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) provided grants for this camp the past two years, with a total of $600,000 going toward this experience. Julian Alvarez is the Texas Workforce Commissioner who is representing labor, and he said he hopes camps like this one can encourage girls specifically to go into STEM-related professions.

"As you travel around the state and you listen to your constituents, they're telling you that there's a disconnect in women and these types of occupations," Alvarez said. "That then becomes a priority. We wanted to make this investment because at this point, right here with these sixth, seventh and eighth grade girls, prior to them recognizing an endorsement path, we thought this was important to implement the initiative."

The BEST robotics camp is not only happening in Austin but Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Trenton as well.