Last April, I spent most of my time looking into summer programs while procrastinating taking study breaks. Because it was my the summer before my senior year of high school, the last thing I wanted to do was sit at home. While sorting through billions of search results on Bing, I recalled that my close friend, also a computer whiz, couldn’t stop talking about applying to a summer internship at Microsoft. I decided to take a look, but qualifications such as “computer-related experience”, “HTML” and “Visual Basic” didn’t ring a bell (I was the opposite of a computer whiz). Instead, “DigiGirlz Program for girls” caught my eye. Sure, I check my e-mail constantly and spend excessive amounts of time in Facebook poke wars, but how else does technology impact my life? I wanted to find out.

DigiGirlz is a Microsoft YouthSpark program that provides high school girls with the opportunity to meet female role models in the tech industry, learn about career opportunities, and attend hands-on workshops. I attended High Tech Camp in Redmond. Camp started out with an icebreaker, during which we divided into smaller groups and discussed the qualities necessary in teambuilding. Shy at first, we spoke up one by one, agreeing that respect, initiative, support, and a smiling face are must-haves for working in a team, especially at a huge corporation like Microsoft. We carried our discussion into action in a Geoteaming event that afternoon: by cracking hints provided on smartphones, we located hidden treasures spread throughout the Microsoft campus. Not only did my team have some serious bonding time, but we also forgot all about our sore feet when we won 3rd place!

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Lizzie’s Geoteaming team.

Another highlight of DigiGirlz was the Windows SmartGlass App Challenge. After trying out Happy Action Theater and Just Dance 3 on Xbox 360 Kinect, we took on the challenge of designing our own app for SmartGlass, a feature allowing a smartphone or tablet to interact with Xbox as a second screen. What’s more, we presented and marketed our app as if we were doing so to potential sponsors! Developing a “smart Geoteaming” app was enjoyable, but seeing that our ideas could excite fellow participants as well as current Microsoft employees was an experience unique to DigiGirlz.

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Lizzie’s team designing their own SmartGlass app.

Following the challenge, we met with a panel of college students studying tech-related subjects. They spoke about what it is like to be a woman in typically male-dominated fields and encouraged us to explore tech career fields. The panel members actually enjoyed advantages in employment because they were the minority; I was even more surprised to find, after talking to one of them, that programming is a hobby, like learning a foreign language. Thanks to the panel session, learning to code became an addition to my to-do list.

A panel of STEM college women talked about what its like to be in a male-dominated field.

Furthermore, the Home of the Future tour opened my eyes to the power of technology. A model of the future house, the newest devices adorned the Home of the Future: an automated face-detecting entrance, phone-charging cabinet, barcode-scanning kitchen counter, customizable wallpaper, you name it. There was even a projected screen which, in addition to working like a tablet, scanned the user for a mini doctor’s check-up. Of course, most popular among DigiGirlz was the interactive closet: it not only coordinated outfits in hand, but also projected the hottest fashion deals on its mirror!

As for technology already in use, we learned how to use SkyDrive, a cloud storage that stacks away information on the internet—essentially a gigantic online drive, accessible 24/7 where there is Internet connection. It even had a Microsoft Office app; we could work on Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote right on our internet browser. I knew SkyDrive would become my new best friend as I work on college essays and senior projects.

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Lizzie’s class learning about SkyDrive.

Jam-packed with learning, engagement, and excitement, DigiGirlz came to an end too quickly. I was grateful to have met friends who were just as enthusiastic as I was to learn about the infinite scope of technology. That we may one day become part of creating life-enriching devices was inspiring beyond words. DigiGirlz helped realize the importance of keeping an open mind for new opportunities, especially if they challenge me to step beyond my comfort zone. That said, I’ll continue to explore possibilities in technology, with taking AP Computer Science as a start.