College of Arts & Sciences receives National Science Foundation grant of $554,000 to develop and administer computer science summer camp for girls

University to partner with OPB, Intel and others in developing and administering program designed to promote the field of science to girls and increase interest as a potential career



The National Science Foundation has awarded a grant of $554,248 to Pacific University's College of Arts & Sciences for the development and administration of an innovative computer science summer camp for seventh and eighth grade girls.

The camp is a unique partnership between the University's computer science faculty and several entities, including Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), the University's Berglund Center for Internet Studies, the Intel Corporation, educational media company Flying Rhinoceros, Vernier Software & Technology, leaders from area tribal groups, local Latino community representatives and local school district heads.

The four-week camp, appropriately named Girls Gather for Computer Science (G2CS), will enroll 30 campers for three consecutive summers, starting in 2011 (for a total of 90 participants). Female instructors will engage campers with an original curriculum that emphasizes computational thinking within an active learning environment. Participants will be invited to partake in follow-up activities and computer science faculty will monitor their progress over a 10-year period following their camp experience.

There is generally widespread agreement among educators that women and minority communities are underrepresented in science, mathematics, engineering and especially computer science. Research indicates that the largest decline in female participation in computer-related activities and classes occurs during their adolescent years.

The camp is a modular pedagogical strategy that instills a view of women computer scientists as leaders, according to associate professor Shereen Khoja, one of the project leads.

"Using female computer science leaders as instructors and removing students from their usual surroundings and preoccupations allow the participants to freely imagine themselves as leaders in the scientific community," she said. "This project seeks to develop and administer a curriculum that improves girls' confidence that they can and should pursue a rewarding career in computer science."

OPB, in consultation with the Berglund Center, will apply its expertise in producing award-winning educational media to develop a web site for the camp that includes interactive learning experiences and video profiles of female computer scientists, features camper work and serves as an ongoing community for campers, instructors and parents. David Davis, vice president of national television production, will oversee this area of the initiative.

Jeffrey Barlow, professor of history and executive director of the Berglund Center, and physics professor Juliet Brosing co-authored the grant request with Khoja and will lead the curriculum development effort. Khoja said the University intends to scale the undertaking to the national level by making the curriculum resources available online and offered to the education community through a wide media campaign, with software and other resources readily available.

"Our goal is to provide an exemplary program that many educators will use to encourage girls to consider computer science as an interesting and satisfying career path in the future," Khoja said. "We believe the impact of such a camp will be decisive, not just for the 90 girls who will go through the camp, but also for their parents, friends and teachers."

Because the camp will include middle school teachers as program instructors, the offering will allow them to become mentors for their peers, other teachers who can then administer the curriculum within their respective classes. 

Khoja believes the most significant impact of the project will be national in scope. She said the close involvement of OPB and other partners, as well as an aggressive publicity effort led by the Berglund Center, will likely result in widespread awareness of the camp.

"The most significant impact we can have is to alter the thinking of students, parents and educators in their views on computer science, and this is our goal," she said.


Posted by Joe Lang (jlang@pacificu.edu) on Apr 5, 2010 at 2:23 PM

Edited by Stephanie Haugen (haug7381@pacificu.edu) on May 3, 2012 at 2:17 PM

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