Women in Computing

These two blurbs appeared in the same issue of ACM Technews (March 21, 2007)…

Girls Ask Alice for Programming Skills
eWeek (03/19/07) Taft, Darryl K.

A program called Alice, originally conceived by Carnegie Mellon’s Stage 3 Research lab, has proved effective in getting young women excited about computer programming. Alice allows those who do not have high-level programming abilities to try their hand at creating 3D computer animated stories, using characters, scripting tools, and pre-existing graphic elements. Originally designed to help build virtual environments, Alice was eventually given a drag-and-drop interface, which has made it an effective tool in introducing both women and minorities to computer programming, according to CMU. A study was conducted to see what impact a version of Alice with storytelling support had on girls, compared to a version without storytelling support, and the “Results of the study suggest that girls are more motivated to learn programming using Storytelling Alice; study participants who used Storytelling Alice spent 42 percent more time programming and were more than three times as likely to sneak extra time to work on their programs as users of Generic Alice–16 percent of Generic Alice users and 51 percent of Storytelling Alice users snuck extra time,” says CMU graduate student Caitlin Kelleher, who developed Storytelling Alice. Using Alice in middle school, where many girls are found to lose interest in math and science, provides students with positive exposure to programming. The program has also been used in colleges and high schools. The program “really seems to be hitting its stride this year,” said IBM Rational division chief scientist Grady Booch, after attending the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education’s (SIGCSE) 2007 symposium in Covington, Ky. To learn about ACM’s Committee on Women and Computing, visit http://women.acm.org
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Now Beauty Is in the Eye of the Computer
Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) (03/18/07) Dasey, Daniel

After spending several years refining computer software designed to rate the attractiveness of women, Australian computer scientists Hatice Gunes and Massimo Piccardi at the University of Technology, Sydney, are now looking for commercial partners. The software is designed to quickly analyze a photograph of a women’s face, and immediately produce a beauty rating on the scale of 1 to 10. “Potential applications exist in the entertainment industry, cosmetic industry, virtual media, and plastic surgery,” the researchers write in a paper in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies. Piccardi is especially excited about the idea of having doctors use the facial analysis technology to ensure that modifications for plastic surgery patients improve their attractiveness. The program can predict how beautiful humans would consider a female face to be plus or minus 1.5 marks, and the researchers say the margin of error could be reduced with continued development. The beauty quotient of the software is based on 14 facial measurements, 13 related ratios, and images of supermodels, actresses, and more than 200 other women.
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