Inspiring female hackers in Brazil
Some people find the push to excel from within themselves—no external motivators necessary. Professor Rosiane de Freitas is one such woman, constantly looking for a challenge, continually pushing herself to the limit. After earning her PhD in systems engineering and computing from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, she joined the Institute of Computing of the Federal University of Amazonas (ICOMP/UFAM), where she teaches and conducts research in combinatorial optimization and graph theory.
On top of the rigors of her academic life, Rosiane is an avid diver, hiker, and, mountaineer, as adept with an ice axe as she is with an algorithm. In fact, she is an active member of Women on the Mountain, an organization of female Brazilian mountain climbers, and the mountains she has scaled include Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas!
When she isn’t climbing Andean mountains, Rosiane is busy conquering virtual ones. She is passionate about the potential of computer science and technology to empower results that cut across disciplines and can have an immense, beneficial impact on society. Wanting her students to understand the endless possibilities and opportunities of technology, Rosiane leads both the Amazon State Informatics Olympics and Programming Marathon. Because of her desire to increase the number of women in computer science programs, she made sure that UFAM was the first Brazilian university to take part in last year’s inaugural International Women’s Hackathon, mentoring a group of girls who participated in the event. It was great for the girls—and even better for the school, since it sparked discussions about the importance of gender diversity in technology careers. This year, Rosiane has inspired other female students to participate in the International Women’s Hackathon 2014.
Please read on for a firsthand account of Rosiane’s experience.
—Juliana Salles, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections
It was an interesting and inspiring experience to participate in the First International Women’s Hackathon in 2013. We were the only site in Brazil to field a team of young female university students. Ludymila, Mariane, Bruna, and Ingrid, undergraduate students in computer science and computer engineering at the Institute of Computing of the Federal University of Amazonas (ICOMP/UFAM), developed Mommy’s BeneFIT: a mobile application aimed at keeping women physically fit during pregnancy.
Although it wasn’t easy to organize a competition of this magnitude, the assistance of people from Microsoft Research—especially Rane Johnson and Juliana Salles—and the support of colleagues at ICOMP/UFAM and such partner institutions as INdT-Manaus simplified the task. As did the strong interest and high motivation of the young women, who had to dedicate time to the competition amidst the demands of exams, other science projects, and a heavy class load. In addition, they had only limited experience with the development platform used in the competition.
Computer science and computer engineering undergrads at ICOMP/UFAM—Ingrid, Ludymila, Bruna, and Mariane—developed a mobile application to help women stay physically fit during pregnancy.
These intrepid young women shrugged off the obstacles, learning to manage their time and develop mobile apps for Windows Phone, identifying a suitable target app (one that was either unavailable on the market or whose current solution could be improved), learning about the target market, developing a functional app and testing it with users, and creating a promotional video that highlighted the best features of their solution. Thus, they played the roles of software engineers, software analysts, user experience designers, graphics designers, programmers, and marketing designers.
As Ludymila observed, “It was a lot of work for three months, but it really helped us grow as professionals and gave us a wider view of our field of work. It was useful in making some personal decisions about which field to specialize in for the future.” The example of these four women has inspired other female students to sign up for this year’s event, hoping to repeat the success of their pioneering colleagues. We teachers have also been motivated, gaining an even deeper commitment to participation in the upcoming International Women’s Hackathon 2014!
—Rosiane de Freitas, Professor of Computer Science, UFAM
- International Women’s Hackathon 2014
- Innovating for the future: second annual International Women’s Hackathon
- Bridging the Gender Gap (video)
- Women in Computing
- Federal University of Amazonas
- Microsoft Connections in Latin America