Junior high school girls from military Families interacted with the latest gadgets and learned about careers in science, technology, engineering and math at a premier Microsoft DigiGirlz event at the Fort Belvoir USO Warrior and Family Center Saturday.
Microsoft hosted the one-day DigiGirlz program specifically for daughters of active-duty servicemembers in sixth to eighth grade.
"This is the first Armed Forces DigiGirlz day that Microsoft has hosted anywhere," said Donna Woodall, Microsoft Northeast Region director for citizenship and public affairs. "We're really excited to be partnering with the USO on this."
More than 80 girls attended, from Fort Belvoir and surrounding military installations, representing all branches of military service.
"There are a disproportionate number of young ladies who are pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math," Woodall said. "It's very important for all girls, but we wanted to give special emphasis to those in military Families. We wanted to remind them that technology is not just for boys."
The program included discussions on cyber security and hands-on workshops, where the girls learned how to make their own cell phone apps, work with social media, and design a computer program.
"I actually loved it. I didn't think I would like it when I came, but I learned that I like it," said Tamia James, 13, who's father serves as a Marine at the Washington Navy Yard. "I like technology and I like computers."
Shalyn Bartelt, programs and services manager for the USO of Metropolitan Washington, said the program teaches girls "to channel (their) inner geek in a cool way."
"It's not just numbers and boring stuff, but you develop things like restaurant apps ... (and) also things like making makeup with technology and science," she said.
The DigiGirlz event also featured remarks from Maj. Gen. Jennifer Napper, director of plans and policy for U.S. Army Cyber Command, and showcased sessions on new Microsoft products like the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 tablet, XBOX 360 gaming system and Microsoft "ECO system," which connects all of the Microsoft devices together.
"I like technology a lot, so my Dad thought it would be a good idea for me to come here," said Syeirra Graham, 11, whose father is a Soldier stationed at Fort Belvoir.
Her favorite part of the program was learning how to work with the Surface tablets.
"It can hold any amount of apps or photos that you want," Graham said.
Corinne Drummer, store manager for the Microsoft retail store in Pentagon City and DigiGirlz showcase instructor, said she has never worked with a more enthusiastic group.
"This is one of the most brilliant groups of girls that I've done DigiGirlz with," Drummer said. "There are some extremely talented young ladies in this room that absolutely should be on the fast track for a career in technology."
Drummer said that students in junior high and high school are at a crucial point in their studies, where they discover their passions and think about what they want to pursue as a career.
"This is where it starts," she said. "Ninety percent of our future is technology. If they know it now, they're going to be very well grounded for what's happening in the future."
Microsoft has been hosting DigiGirlz events around the world since 2000.
For more information, visit www.microsoft.com/digigirlz.