Logo: University of Southern California

STEM Spotlight: USC Viterbi Computer Science

Interactive events, film screenings and motivational speeches for K-12 Students
By: Razzan Nakhlawi
November 16, 2015 —


Photo credit: Katie Mills 


On November 3rd, USC Viterbi held a STEM Spotlight on the Department of Computer Science, which highlighted topics such as gaming, coding, cybersecurity and robotics. The Spotlight was a day-long exploration into the discipline which drew 250 students from eight area schools.

The event kicked off with drawing sessions with Scribbler robots, and a tour of USC’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems Center labs, as well as the USC GamePipe Lab. The day concluded with a screening of CodeGirl, a documentary featuring the work of a nonprofit started by Tara Chklovski, USC Viterbi Department of Mechanical Engineering alumna and CEO and founder of Iridescent Learning.

The documentary, directed by award-winning filmmaker Leslie Chilcott, showcased Iridescent’s “Technovation Challenge” for high-school girls across the globe to code their own apps in order to solve a problem in their local communities. The competition was conceived to parallel a startup experience for high school girls.

Following the screening, Chklovski discussed the documentary with local high school girls. She spoke to the students about the competition’s origins and its personal and psychological impact on the participants, “It’s more than just coding, it’s that I can use technology to make a change in my environment.”
The USC Viterbi School was one of select locations around the world celebrating the documentary along with Google’s Made with Code foundation. The film was also screened on YouTube throughout the week. Made With Code hosted a hands-on coding workshop at USC following the screening.

Professor Maja Mataric, USC Viterbi’s vice dean of research, advised the young women attending the screening to get involved and try things themselves, rather than believing in cliches and stereotypes.

Sophomore Lin Zhou, a female student in USC Viterbi’s Department of Computer Science, noticed the changes taking part within engineering, noting, “It’s becoming more fair for women in this field, and at this school.”

The STEM Spotlight on Computer Science, one of many events held by USC Viterbi’s VAST (Viterbi Adopt-a-School, Adopt-a-Teacher) program, is part of the school’s outreach to the community and its efforts to encourage individuals from underrepresented groups to consider careers in engineering disciplines.