School of Engineering Hosts Computer Education Academy
This past Saturday, local high school students spent the morning building DNA models at the School of Engineering’s Computing Education Academy (CEA).
Building DNA structures may seem like it’s more related to biology rather than computer science and engineering, but Dr. Wook-Sung Yoo, associate professor of software engineering and co-director of the CEA, said that in addition to exposing students to key computing concepts and basic computer programming, CEA also tackles projects that demonstrate how computer technology can be used to solve problems in fields such as bioinformatics and forensics.
Following the successful launch of CEA last year, the Saturday morning program provides students interested in computer science with fun and engaging hands-on activities on topics such as the history and future of computing, algorithm design, app development, and web projects.
The program is open to high school students with a love of all things tech-related from Bridgeport Public Schools, the Diocese of Bridgeport, and other surrounding schools. The program runs for 24 Saturdays in the school year of 2015-16.
Dr. Bruce Berdanier, dean of the School of Engineering, said, “The Computing Education Academy is vital to our School’s outreach to the Bridgeport and other local area schools as a way to encourage underrepresented students to consider a career in engineering and to help establish a K-12 pipeline for Fairfield University. It’s so vital to get young people in the U.S interested in areas like computing and software engineering, because they’re going to grow up to be our next generation of scientists, engineers and innovators.”
The need for scientists and engineers is arguably more important now than ever in order to stay competitive in a global society. But not all students are given opportunities to learn about it at a young age, said Dr. Amalia Rusu, co-director of CEA. “Math and biology courses are required for high school students, but in most cases computer classes are just an option--and that subject is so important to learn today.”
Angere Chen, a 16-year old from Trumbull High School, said, “I saw this program as an opportunity to learn more about computer science. I want to work in the field, but I’m not sure in what area yet, so this is a way to help me find what path I should go on.”
In addition to hosting students at the University, Fairfield faculty also work with high school teachers to strengthen their skills on teaching computer science. “Through this program, we’re not just teaching students. We plan to provide computing curriculum to schools involved and professional development for teachers on better ways to teach computer science,” said Dr. Yoo.
Funded by grants from various organizations, including ASML, United Illuminating Foundation, People's United Community Foundation and Connecticut Space Grant Consortium, CEA’s curriculum is designed and taught by SOE faculty with the assistance of graduate students. Spoorthi Raghunandan Pattaparla and Sameer Shaik, both software engineering students, are assisting the faculty with CEA this year.
Shaik said that this is a program that lets students go further than just scratching the surface of computer technology. “Students today already know so much about using technology at an early age, like how to play games, go on Facebook, etc., but there’s so much more than that. This is a very good program and it’s fun for them!”