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Fariña may refuse to tweet, but she supports summer STEM programs

Just before NYU’s director of K-12 STEM Education, Ben Esner, introduced Chancellor Fariña, he unfolded a T-shirt and held it up to a group assembled at the NYU School of Engineering on Thursday morning.

The grey T-shirt read: “Engineering is _____.” Esner asked Fariña to fill in the blank.

“Is great,” he suggested. “Or, ‘saves the world.’ ”

But Fariña had her own end the to sentence: “Gets you jobs,” she said.

A few hundred people, mostly kids, sat around tables in the auditorium to kick off the second annual STEM Now series, which began last week and will include almost 500 middle and high school students (plus teachers and grad students) at tuition free camps and workshops around the city during the summer months. They included a free series for women in digital game development, workshops and research for teachers, and classes for students with minimal access to STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics, programs.

The programs were organized by NYU without the Department of Education, but Fariña spoke to the group to lend her public support for an initiative that encompasses a number of her stated priorities: a focus on summer learning, middle school and STEM.

In her keynote, Fariña noted the gender gap in STEM fields and suggested girl- and boy-only programs in the earlier grades, citing her own positive all-girl school experience growing up.

One example sitting in front of her was two tables of high school girls around the city participating in Cyber Security for Young Women. The program teaches 44 high school students about hacking, programming and encryption and readies them for a co-ed cyber security competition at NYU in September.

In the mean time, they’ve starting learning HTML and the programming language Python. They watched a video about hacking into a car to cut the steering wheel. They learned about what makes encryption hard to crack. Later this summer, they’ll visit Google and Facebook.

Many of the girls are considering majoring in computer science in college, and others are looking beyond college.

“It’s all about job security,” said 17-year-old Amanda Schroeder, echoing Fariña.

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