Falling in Love with Coding

Incoming freshman computer science major Gabrielle Gross learned to code in middle school at the University of Maryland

Gabrielle Gross holding a certificate.
Gabrielle Gross holding a certificate from Girls Who Code at UMD.

Gabrielle Gross discovered her love for coding at 11 years old in a University of Maryland summer camp. She followed this passion from summer camps to after-school programs to majoring in computer science in college, determined to learn everything she could about computing.

“I love the puzzle-like aspect of coding. Similar to how it feels when you finish building a LEGO set, I get this sense of accomplishment and pride that I was able to create something functional,” Gross said. “Coding to me is like any other puzzle—frustratingly fun.”

This fall, she will be back on campus as a freshman computer science major. 

A Firm Foundation in Computing

Before she entered sixth grade, Gross participated in her first year of CompSciConnect—the Iribe Initiative for Inclusion and Diversity in Computing’s (I4C) three-year summer program designed to introduce middle schoolers from populations historically marginalized in STEM to programming concepts.

Gabrielle Gross holding an award.
Gabrielle Gross received honorable mention from NCWIT's 2023 Aspirations in Computing awards.

“Knowing people who are actually passionate about computer science who are also women or from other underrepresented groups is great because you know you’re not alone,” Gross said. “Sometimes I went to programs and I thought, ‘I could try to contribute but do I really belong here?’ I4C’s programs really changed that for me.”

After CompSciConnect, Gross joined I4C’s AI Summer Program (formerly AI4All) and later became a teaching assistant for CompSciConnect as a high school student.

“I wanted to pay it forward through teaching and working with kids who were like me,” Gross said. “I wouldn’t be here today if it weren't for all my experiences with programs like I4C.”

I4C’s summer camps helped Gross understand what she wanted for her career aspirations and passions.

“CompSciConnect helped me fall in love with coding as a whole,” Gross said. “Thanks to programs like this, I know the structure of coding well enough to pick up any coding language. That means I can enter college with some confidence.”

A Ramp Up to College

Not surprisingly, Gross found another way to plug into coding before college by participating in Break Through Tech DC’s third annual Guild program at UMD. 

“When I saw that Gaby had gotten into Maryland and was joining us for Guild before the fall semester, I couldn’t have been happier,” said Charlotte Avery, who manages I4C’s community outreach initiatives including summer camps. “This is why programs like ours are so important.”

Gabrielle Gross holding a mic.
Gabrielle Gross presented her app solution, Budget Buddy, during Guild 2023.

A national initiative with a site at UMD, Break Through Tech aims to boost underrepresented gender identity groups in tech education and, ultimately, tech careers. The Guild program focuses on providing a venue for students to network with industry mentors and see what it means to pursue a computing career.

This year’s Guild program focused on financial technology, with students dividing into teams to develop creative solutions to fintech challenges. The Guild students were mentored by over 40 volunteers from Accenture, Capital One, Google, Microsoft, Verizon and other companies who helped guide their ideation and creation processes throughout the week.

Gross’ group created an app designed for young adults called Budget Buddy, a personal budget sheet for savings and achieving and organizing financial goals. Mentored by Capital One Associate Software Engineer Gaurav Gandhi, Gross’ team outlined a promotion and marketing campaign with social media, flyer posting on campus, in-app ads and campus partnerships. The team even thought ahead to code a feature that offers the app’s services in different languages.

“It was fantastic getting to teach Gaby again after being one of her instructors back when she was in CompSciConnect,” said Elias Gonzalez (B.S. '17, computer science; M.Ed. ’18, curriculum and instruction), Guild instructor and curriculum innovation lead for Break Through Tech DC at UMD. “She is one of many students who really made the most of the Guild experience, and I am so proud to see her joining us as a computer science major this fall.”

Now, Gross is officially a Terp.

“Becoming a Terp means joining an open and accepting community of peers and mentors that will help me reach my academic and career goals,” Gross said. “It means gaining access to a plethora of opportunities that will set me up for a successful future. I cannot wait for this journey to begin.”

About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 8,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college's 10 departments and nine interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $250 million.