Reaching out to High School Students

This week is Computer Science Education week, a time when the Computer Science educators in the nation try to draw attention to the ever-increasing market demand for software developers as contrasted by the decreasing focus in Computer Science at the high school level. A press release from the National Science Foundation highlights the problem:

Only 16,622 high school students entering college take the Advanced Placement (AP) computer science exam, according to the College Board that administers the AP tests. Compare that with the over 230,000 students who took the AP Calculus AB exam and the over 360,000 students took the U.S. History AP exam, and the neglect of computer science at the K-12 level comes into the focus.

Meanwhile, market demand for computer science majors continues to grow. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report on employment projections software engineers are among the top 30 occupations with highest employment growth (34%) for the next decade, as are network systems and data communication analysts (53%).

Here in the CSE department we have, for the past couple of years, been reaching out to high school students via the Enhanced Learning Experience (ELE) program. ELE is a collaboration between the Outreach program and our department. Dr. Donn Griffith and Ms. Jennifer Illian coordinate visits of large groups of high school students to the University.

Once the students arrive at USC, Dr. Csilla Farkas coordinates their visit to our department. In a typical visit the students start the morning by enjoying several presentations that have been specially developed by the faculty to be engaging and accessible to high school students. In these presentations they learn about the basics of Computer Science (Dr. Vidal), Robots (Dr. O'Kane), Wireless Networks (Dr. Xu), Network Security (Dr. Farkas), and other topics.

The high school students are then joined for lunch by some of our faculty and students. Finally, they spend their afternoon in our game programming lab where they learn how video games are made and get to test their skills by playing some of the video games developed by our students in our games programming class.

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