Local high school honored for female diversity in computer science

A handful of high schools in our area have been honored by the College Board for enrolling more female students in AP computer science classes.

One of them is Plymouth Whitemarsh High School in Plymouth Meeting, and computer science teacher Mickey Engel has been working for more than a decade to get more girls into the field.

There are two ways to receive the honor: females must make up at least 50% of the school's AP computer science courses, or the percentage of the females taking the AP exam must exceed that of the school's female population.

Of more than 18,000 schools worldwide that offer the AP courses, only 685 have received the honor, according to the College Board.

Engel says he started teaching computer science 15 years ago, and back then his classes were all boys.

"Over the past several years we've had a lot of initiatives where we're trying to bring more girls in, so to see that award from the College Board is a really great thing." said Engel.

He's also the director of the school musicals, where he says he's been able to recruit more females into his computer science classes.

"Obviously there's a big connection between mathematics and music. And what I've found is that just in talking to kids at rehearsals or whatever is that many of them expressed an interest but just didn't know how to get involved," said Engel.

Senior Namita Rao plans to study computer science at Carnegie Mellon University next year, and appreciates the efforts the school has been taking.

"It shouldn't just be men working on an algorithm that's supposed to serve a diverse population," said Rao. "It should have new perspectives because when you have new perspectives, you come up with better and more inclusive solutions."
Copyright © 2019 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.