In a University of Washington (UW) animation classroom, with colorful, cutout Pixar heroes flexing their muscles on the walls, a group of students with their own animated expressions compete to offer ideas. Most use American Sign Language (ASL) and jump to their feet to sign, so their hands can be seen above the computer monitors around the room.

This summer academy--thought to be the only one of its kind in the United States--introduces deaf and hard-of-hearing students to careers in computer sciences. For many of the participants, it's their first glimpse inside the high-tech world. For some, it is the first time...

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