Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) proposes a project, entitled "Building Computing Aptitude, Confidence, and Engagement for Students (Computing ACES)." Computing ACES aims to increase the number of high school students, especially underrepresented minorities and women, who enroll in computer science and computer engineering programs. Computing ACES will target high school students in business computing and technology courses who currently are taught how to use a computer, without being taught any of the computer science behind it.

Piloting this project in a rural area of social, economic, and education need, PVAMU will partner with nearby Hempstead High School (HHS). A multipronged approach will be used to achieve the project's goal, and strong relationships formed between the two institutions will contribute to project effectiveness. Computing ACES project objectives are to (1) Engage high school students' interest in computing disciplines and strengthen their aptitude in computing; (2) Increase high school students' awareness of careers in computing disciplines aligned with their areas of interest and dispel commonly held myths about computing careers, especially for women; and (3) Encourage and assist qualifying students to apply to college in a computing discipline, particularly in PVAMU computer science and computer engineering. The innovative component of this BPC demonstration project will be the development of computing modules for incorporation into an existing HHS occupational technology course. The modules will be integrated into the existing syllabus and will teach computing principles using a fun, engaging, and gender-sensitive environment. PVAMU faculty will guide the process and routinely interact with the HHS technology teachers and students. A PVAMU student team (computing majors) will be an integral part of the activity and will work directly with HHS teachers and students. The teachers, after receiving instruction at Computing ACES summer workshops, will be able to adapt existing modules and develop new ones for incorporation into their curriculum. Other strategies to facilitate this novel effort will include utilization of media computing and pair programming to develop gender-neutral computing activities as the modules are introduced to the technology students. To scaffold student awareness of computing and dispel commonly held myths regarding computing careers, PVAMU will host several best-practices activities including Fiestas (summer day camps) for HHS students, as well as field trips to PVAMU computing labs during the academic year. Also, a Computer Festival will be incorporated into the annual PVAMU Engineering Week to further heighten student awareness of computing degree options at the university. To support the PVAMU application process for qualifying students, various efforts are proposed such as working with students on application materials during the last day of Fiesta and parental engagement during the Fiesta and the Computer Festival. By focusing on students enrolled in high school business computing and technology courses, this project targets traditionally underrepresented students in computing.

This model is both scalable and replicable. While most schools offer a business computing, technology or tech training course which covers the basic use of computers, many poor or rural schools, and those with larger numbers of underrepresented populations, do not offer courses in computer science. Successful components of this model can be replicated at other institutions with similar populations. Moreover, Computing ACES has potential for wider national impact with training guides and modules available online for the majority of U.S. high schools who offer business computing and occupational technology courses.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Computer and Network Systems (CNS)
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Janice E. Cuny
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Texas Engineering Experiment Station
College Station
United States
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