CSU Expands Access to Improve Computer Science, Teaching

COLUMBUS, GA. - Columbus State University has received federal money to build on its efforts to improve computer science teaching and learning in regional high schools and middle schools.

The TSYS School of Computer Science will use a $117,369 National Science Foundation grant for a two-year initiative, “Broadening Participation in Computing.”

Plans include programs targeting middle school girls and workshops for regional high school teachers, including a residential summer program to accommodate long-distance commuters.

The grant is part of a larger NSF award for “Georgia Computes,” a similar, statewide initiative directed by Georgia Tech. Columbus State and Armstrong Atlantic State are partners in this initiative. Thus, Columbus State’s service area is about one-third of the state, covering the west-central and southwest regions.

“This is the result of a lot of work by our faculty and strong relationships we have developed over the past couple years with Georgia Tech,” said Wayne Summers, professor and chair of the TSYS School of Computer Science.

In reaching out to middle school-age girls as a long-range approach to drawing more women into the field, Summers and his staff will conduct weekend and summer activities onsite for Girls Inc. of Columbus and Girls Scouts of Historic Georgia, based in Columbus.

These workshops will introduce participants to building Lego robots; learning “Scratch,” a programming language for interactive stories, animations, games, music and art; and learning “Alice,” which guides programmers of all ages in creating their own animated stories without realizing they’re writing code.

Summers said such activities are key to reversing a long-running trend illustrated by women comprising just 10 percent of computer science degree-seekers nationally. However, that figure is 18 percent at Columbus State — a result of various prior and ongoing initiatives, said Summers.

Those initiatives include a recently established games programming degree program and a “bridging class” through which high school students study animation and games programming, and interactive programming. They also learn about computer science-related career and study opportunities at Columbus State.

To help teachers, Summers and his faculty will use a portion of the NSF grant to develop an online Master of Science endorsement program in computer science education to be available through Columbus State’s College of Education and Health Professions.

Separate from the grant, but in line with TSYS School of Computer Science’s mission, the school will host an Oct. 8 GEMS (Games, Education, Modeling and Simulation) from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at CSU’s Cunningham Center. Themed “Games Seriously,” the event focuses on the serious side of the games industry and will feature competitions, demonstrations and widely respected speakers representing academia, government and the defense industry. The symposium is open to the public ($20 per person), and local high schools are encouraged to send local students to the event as well. Online registration is open at http:// ccld.colstate.edu/event_registration.asp.

For more information, call 706-568-2410 or go to http://cs.colstate.edu/.