June 21, 2023
What’s next for the Class of 2023?
While many grads are preparing for their next steps in industry or academia, Rida Bayraktar is digging deeper into the work she started as a computer science undergraduate at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Years ago, Bayraktar challenged herself to make a difference in the male-dominated tech industry, which she did through her non-profit start-up Pink STREAM. Operating out of Chapel Hill with the help of dedicated volunteers who are full-time students, Pink STREAM offers free, majority-female after-school programs focused on programming, 3D printing, and robotics. The programs are held in community partner locations like community centers, churches, and libraries, and they seek to bring STEM education to students who may not otherwise have access from an early age.
Since 2018, Pink STREAM has impacted more than 1,200 students through courses and workshops covering topics that are shaping the future: robotics, programming, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and more.
The issue of STEM access is important to Bayraktar, because her journey into STEM wasn’t an easy one. As the only girl on a 100-student high school robotics team, she watched her peers become discouraged by how few girls were involved and how much coding experience many of the male students already had before joining. Determined to bridge the gender gap, she founded Pink STREAM to create educational spaces that cater to girls’ interests and empower them to succeed in STEM fields.
Coding for good
In 2022, Pink STREAM expanded internationally by hosting programs for refugee and disadvantaged communities in Turkey. Within just three months, Bayraktar and her team reached 300 students across three cities: Istanbul, Ankara, and Canakkale. After graduation, Bayraktar will travel to Turkey to further expand Pink STREAM’s refugee programs, specifically targeting those affected by the recent earthquakes in the region.
On February 6, 2023, two powerful earthquakes struck southeast Turkey, directly impacting the lives of 13 million people, including 5 million children. With cities reduced to rubble, millions have been displaced, with 2.6 million people finding temporary shelter in tent and container cities.
Bayraktar stated, “Life in these makeshift settlements poses physical, mental, and emotional challenges for children, hindering their recovery from trauma. And disrupted education further jeopardizes their future. It’s crucial that we work to provide safe and engaging learning spaces for these children – especially teens who have less access to educational programming.”
Bayraktar discovered that most of the available activities and educational programming was designed for children, leaving teens and young adults without age-appropriate programming. Responding to the need, Pink STREAM seeks to create programs for those aged 13 to 17 that can bridge the age gap in these affected areas. Hopefully, the lessons learned will help students in areas beyond STEM, and even beyond the classroom.
“Computer Science education allows these students to gain hands-on learning experiences and develop creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills,” Bayraktar said.
Pink STREAM’s work in Turkey has also included working to improve educational infrastructure in earthquake relief camps, ensuring that students have a place to learn and the resources they need to carry out educational activities.
The code less traveled
Pink STREAM showcases that there are numerous paths one can pursue after studying computer science at UNC-Chapel Hill. Bayraktar exemplifies the power of education and experience to drive positive change.
As Pink STREAM continues its journey to empower girls in STEM, Rida Bayraktar’s vision and dedication stand as a testament to the transformative power of education and inclusivity. By creating educational environments tailored to girls’ interests and breaking down barriers for them, Pink STREAM can pave the way for a new generation of women/womxn leaders in the tech industry, ensuring a brighter and more diverse future.
Support Bayraktar’s work by contributing to Pink STREAM, which is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, at donorbox.org/pink-stream.