If 2014 was the year that we really started seeing widespread efforts to get more girls engaged in STEM interests, 2015 could be the year that it becomes so common, we can take it for granted. But…not yet. So we continue to be excited to share organizations like ProjectCSGIRLS, a non-profit that runs CS workshops for girls all around the country, plus a national computer science competition just for middle school girls.

What I really like is that ProjectCSGIRLS is run by high school and college students, who act as peer mentors for younger tweens and teens. In fact, it was founded two years ago by Pooja Chandrashekar, now just a high school senior herself. That’s one MIT scholarship accounted for, right there.

If you’re in sixth to eighth grades this year, and live in the contiguous 48, you’re eligible to compete in the ProjectCSGIRLS challenge, which is like a virtual hackathon. The mission is to develop a solution that addresses one of three social problems: Global health issues; a safer world (cybersecurity, defense and the like); or intelligent technology like robotics, AI applications, or machine learning. Participants can work alone or as a team, which I think is awesome for girls who tend to be naturally collaborative.

Project CSGIRLS computer science and tech competition for middle school girls: Register now!

The more creative, original, and powerful the concept, and the more viable it is to change and disrupt, the greater the chance to win on the regional, state and eventually national level. Maybe your family will even be flown out to the big awards gala in DC.

For a better sense of the requirements, check out last year’s winning entry from seventh grader Michelle Kim, who proposed a virtual lip reading program using an AI system (PDF).

But truly, I think that any girl who enters, wins. After all, middle school is such a crucial period for girls to solidify interests that stick with them for life, and getting involved with tech just widens their potential opportunities. In a world where only 12% of CS degree candidates are women, and the press still refers to Marissa Mayer as “the female _____” , that’s definitely a good thing.

Visit the non-profit ProjectCSGIRLS website to learn more about their middle school CS competition or find other ways to support them. Registration closes February 15, but if your daughter needs a mentor, the deadline was just extended to February 1. Entrants have until April 1 for submissions.

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