Georgia Tech’s College of Computing has received a $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to expand a statewide program aimed at increasing the number of computer science students and teachers at all levels of education. The program has seen some early success, and officials hope it can serve as a model for other states to follow.

Originally a three-year program, "Georgia Computes!" seeks to engage groups that have not traditionally participated in IT education at high rates, groups such as minorities, women, and students with disabilities. The grant will extend the program for two more years.

The grant comes from NSF’s Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) program. Georgia Tech has been working under this program to improve computing education throughout the state, with a special focus on developing and implementing models for recruiting, mentoring, and retaining students from underrepresented communities.

"After just three years of working to raise interest in computing, ‘Georgia Computes!’ has reached thousands of Georgians," Mark Guzdial, a Georgia Tech professor and principal investigator for the program, said in a press release.

"To date, Georgia Tech has exponentially increased the number of Girl Scouts participating in workshops, created eight regional summer computing camps, doubled the number of schools offering Advanced Placement Computer Science classes, doubled the number of Hispanic students taking the AP exam, and influenced a quarter of the computing programs in the University System of Georgia."

Led by faculty and graduate students from the Georgia Tech College of Computing, "Georgia Computes!" seeks to broaden the definition of computing for K-12 students by using diverse mentors, including high school students and undergraduate students with disabilities.

The program includes weekend computing workshops with the Girl Scouts; after-school computing workshops with local Cool Girls, Boys and Girls Club, and YWCA chapters; summer camps for fourth through 12th grade students at Georgia Tech and eight other colleges and universities; and computing workshops to help high school teachers engage K-12 students in the subject.
 
For undergraduate students, the program encompasses computing workshops hosted by the University System of Georgia to help faculty teach high-retention curricula and then evaluate their impact; research to determine why students do not take computer science classes; and recruitment of undergraduates to serve as leaders and mentors for high school students.
 
For graduate students, the program includes recruitment of graduate students to serve as leaders, mentors, material developers, and evaluators for tracking computer-science enrollment across Georgia.

The latest NSF grant will allow Georgia Tech to grow and measure the program.

"Georgia Computes!" aims to increase teacher education efforts by adding two regional centers of expertise at Columbus State and Armstrong Atlantic State universities and by developing online materials to offer in-service workshops regardless of geography.

In addition, Georgia Tech will create an infrastructure to measure university computing programs throughout the state and track participation from workshops and camps through high school classes to university degrees.

Georgia Tech will share results of the project to serve as a model for the nation in increasing interest in computer science. Other states already are looking to Georgia, program officials say, including Alabama, Florida, and Illinois, which recently created "Illinois Computes!" using Georgia’s efforts as a model.

The grant comes on the heels of a recent $2.5 million NSF grant for Operation Reboot, a program through Georgia Tech’s College of Computing to transform unemployed IT professionals into high school computing teachers over the next three years.

Georgia Tech’s Institute for Personal Robotics in Education (IPRE) also recently received $250,000 for the second phase of a project to enhance the introductory computer-science curriculum using personal robots to teach foundational computing skills.

Links:

Georgia Tech College of Computing

National Science Foundation

Broadening Participation in Computing (NSF-sponsored initiative)