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College of Computing Using Google Funding to Close CS Diversity Gap

It’s no secret that female, African American, Hispanic, Native American, and Alaskan Native students are underrepresented in computer science in Georgia and across the country.

In fact, according to ongoing data analysis by Barbara Ericson, director of computing outreach for the Institute for Computing Education (ICE) for the Georgia Tech College of Computing, “The disparity here is so great that in 2015 10 U.S. states had fewer than 10 girls take the Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science (CS) A course exam while 23 states had fewer than 10 black students take the exam.”

In an interview with the New York Times late last year, Ericson said working to solve the tech industry’s gender and racial diversity gap is important “because we don’t have enough people studying computer science in the United States to fill the projected number of jobs in the field.”

To address this problem and prepare more high school students for computer science careers, the College of Computing established RISE Up 4 CS in 2012.

Leveraging Google RISE Award funding, the RISE Up 4 CS program offers twice-a-week webinars and monthly in person sessions at Georgia Tech to prepare underrepresented students to succeed in taking the APCS A course exam and class. For the webinars, students use a free interactive e-book developed by Ericson to learn about searching and sorting data, and the fundamentals of JAVA.

Since Rise Up 4 CS began, each year a new record number of underrepresented students have passed the AP CS A exam. “While we can't claim that the record number is all due to RISE Up 4 CS, several students have told us they wouldn't have passed the exam without it,” said Ericson.

Prepping students for success this summer

With its third consecutive Google RISE Award, this year the College of Computing and RISE UP 4 CS are supporting two summer day camps for eligible students enrolled in an AP CS A course during the upcoming 2016-2017 school year.

Students attending the summer day camps will create games, 3D movies, and picture manipulation programs while they learn the fundamental concepts, skills, and algorithms. “We want to empower these students with the tools they’ll need to be successful in these challenging courses,” said Ericson.

The College of Computing is partnering with area educational institutions to host the weeklong camps. The first session will be held July 18 through 22 at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School. The second sessions begins July 25 at Morehouse College and runs through July 29.

Eligible students can apply online for either of the two, five-day camp sessions. The camps are free and include lunch and a snack for students. Each camp has a maximum of 20 students.

The Google RISE Awards is an annual grant program for informal education organizations around the world that promote computer science for underrepresented K-12/pre-university age youth.