CORONA — A group of girls has spent the last week huddled around their laptops, designing people and structures for their own virtual 3D world.
But they're not just playing video games — they're getting a glimpse at future careers in a male-dominated field.
The Girl Scout Leadership Institute hosted its first-ever video game programming intensive course this week at NYSCI, where 25 girls from the five boroughs, ranging in age from 13 to 16, learned about computer programming.
It's part of a push to encourage girls to pursue jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — or STEM — as well as help nurture their leadership skills.
“Fields that require a knowledge base in STEM areas are traditionally occupied by men, and in addition to the training that these workshops provide, girls will be building the confidence they'll need to pursue the jobs they want," said Barbara Murphy-Warrington, CEO of Girl Scouts Greater New York.
Throughout the weeklong seminar, students practiced various exercises on the program, which is similar to the programming used in the popular gaming site Second Life.
They created dream or nightmare scenarios and then created a world that represents their Girl Scout experience — from a focus on friendship to the group's push for women's rights.
The participants all learned about what they could do in computer technology and programming in the process.
"There's information for if I want to try to get a job. It's kind of fun actually," said Catherine Nolty, 15, of Flushing.
"It's better to learn you can do this yourself and that it's not just a male-dominated field," she said, noting that girls are sometimes discouraged from pursuing or developing tech skills and can sometimes be afraid of it.
"You don't know to be afraid of something until people tell you to be afraid."
In her virtual world, Catherine, who attends Archbishop Molloy High School, created a building that was representative of the Girl Scouts, featuring things like selling cookies, protecting the environment and fighting for equal rights.
She didn't have any experience in the program before the event but said she had already learned a lot, and the skills will come in handy as she grows older.
The video game initiative is just one focus of the leadership institute, which was created last year and is funded by JP Morgan. Those who were interested had to submit an application for this specialty program, and only 25 were selected.
As an extra incentive the young women were given a stipend provided by the New York Community Trust.