Community and Computer Science: Coming Together During COVID-19
All around the world, there are inspirational stories of people coming together to support each other during these tough times dealing with COVID-19. One such story is the success of high school student interns and researchers from NC State who came together this summer to create lessons for middle school and high school teachers during the Game2Learn Computer Science High School Intern Program.
The Game2Learn Computer Science High School Internship is a relatively new internship program that connects high school students from around the country with an interest in computer science with researchers in the NC State Game2Learn Lab and teachers from North Carolina, Tennessee, and South Carolina. The program is run by Dr. Veronica Catete, Research Scientist at NC State, and graduate student, Amy Isvik. This summer, Game2Learn had 30 interns, and 75% of them were females! Alongside Game2Learn researchers from NC State, these students worked on coding software projects for teachers that creatively combined programming and academic lessons into fun and interactive projects. For example, two interns programmed a game that provides students with an engaging way to practice their fundamental mathematical concepts. Another intern created a project that allows students to learn more about planets in the solar system through interacting with 3-D representations of the planets. Be sure to check out the Snap! project repository which includes most of the projects that the interns made this summer here: http://go.ncsu.edu/2020internsnapprojects.
Through their internship experience, these 30 student interns were able to further develop their understanding of computer science while gaining extra technical software engineering skills as they built over 90 computing infused lessons. They were given the opportunity to work with members of the NC State Computer Science Department and researchers and collaborative partners from other states. Additionally, the interns also worked collaboratively with the 162 teachers attending the virtual Infusing Computing PD (infusingcomputing.com) as both teaching assistants during the Coding boot camps and as developer support during the Create sessions, aiding teachers in creating their own custom assignments.
“Our internship program is really great, not just because it helps our own team support ongoing projects, but because it provides something really valuable to the interns, to teachers, and our community,” said Catete.
Because of COVID-19, many school systems have decided that school will be held remotely for the Fall semester. This new, online format of schooling has proven to be quite difficult. Without in-person contact, it’s not always easy to keep students engaged and to ensure that they do not fall behind. However, with the help of the interactive lessons created by these interns, hundreds of teachers will be able to use them as a resource to teach their students in a fun and engaging way.
The impact and success of the Game2Learn Computer Science High School Internship program represents the importance of working together as a community and advancing underrepresented groups in computer science.
According to Catete, “Research has shown that women prefer to work in careers that are perceived as being helpful to people and society -- Computer Science often gets a bad rap because not many people know what it actually entails. Our program specifically focuses on the socially relevant applications of computing such as education and science. Interns get to make really cool projects that go directly into the hands of teachers and classrooms. We've created a sustainable model for educational engagement within a community between students and teachers that can spur more computing being introduced into K-12 classrooms increasing the number of students entering and being retained in the pipeline. Furthermore, our program specifically encourages juniors and seniors to apply, as that is when they are making decisions about which colleges to attend. Thanks to our program, several of our female alumni have made the decision to join the College of Engineering (computer science intended) and are now participating in student organizations like STARS and WiCS, which aim to help support broadening participation in computing.”
Read more about the Game2Learn Lab here, and contact Veronica Catete or Amy Isvik with any questions about the program!
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