When Khalia Braswell was a fourth-grader, her mother asked: “Would you like a pair of Air Jordans or a computer?”
Braswell, pursuing a PhD in computer science education, chose the latter. No longer restricted by limited in-school computer access, she began tinkering with her computer and got so good at coding that her parents were asking her computing questions. Indeed, she got so good at it that she went on to a position as an experience researcher and interaction designer for Apple.
Braswell has dedicated herself to ensuring that many other underserved girls of color undergo the same transformative experience. While earning her master’s in information technology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, she founded INTech Camp for Girls. Since 2014, the nonprofit has exposed more than 1,500 Black and Latinx middle- and high-school girls to computer science through one-hour to one-week camps. Princeton University recently accepted one of her 2018 scholars.
At UNC Charlotte, Braswell’s master’s advisor was CIS Chair Jamie Payton. In 2019, Braswell left her job at Apple and joined Payton at Temple to conduct doctoral research into pedagogical approaches that can increase the number of Black women in computing.
In November, Braswell hosted the CSforALL 2020 Commitments Showcase. She worked with speaker Mitch Resnik of the MIT Media lab, who created Scratch—a visual programming language for kids—and supermodel Karlie Kloss, creator of Kode with Klossy. A record 5,100-plus viewers from six continents joined the event live.
Following completion of her PhD, Braswell anticipates joining an educational tech company to develop apps geared either towards teaching kids how to code or that better support computer science teachers—preferably the latter. “I can have as many camps for girls as I want,” she says, “but if I can help teachers with CS instruction, they will reach many more students than I ever can.”