For about a year, I’ve been strategizing with Randy Raymond, a software engineer at Google, to make access to computer science education the new “space race” and create models that enable schools to deliver it to students. We believe this movement can be expanded and go a long way towards increasing diversity in fields such as engineering and computing. According to a report from the Pew Research Center, “Black and Hispanic adults are underrepresented among STEM college graduates compared to the general population.
We visited schools in South Florida and met with administrators, teachers and students to assess the current level of computer science access and education and to find ways to add value to the delivery of academic programs. Combining Randy’s knowledge of computer science from an academic perspective and its practical application in the economy with my experience, we attempted to combine the many partnerships between K-12 schools, higher education institutions, corporations and non-profit entities.
Randy has previously found computational thinking assessments to be highly predictive of identifying students who are naturally inclined to perform well in computer-science-oriented tasks. We drew parallels with the evaluation and the way that young basketball and soccer players are evaluated at a young age and put into the infrastructure and systems to nurture and develop their talent.
We want to create a parallel development system for computer science and other fields. The goal is not to isolate those who score well on the assessment, but to bring more students to advanced exposure levels, and to bring more students to advanced exposure levels in addition to those who want to pursue computer science. Other areas of technology.
In the systems we strive to create, everyone has a chance to play, like basketball, for example. Some people play pickup basketball, some play intramurals, some play on the freshman team, some play on the junior varsity team, some play on the varsity team, some are rookies for the varsity team, and others play amateur. Athletic Union (AAU) teams, some play AAU on one of the top circuits like the Nike EYBL, and some play in other settings in top EYBL tournaments like the Pitch Jam.
We will begin testing the first phase of this concept at a South Florida area middle school in the spring 2023 semester. The school has an existing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) magnet program where about half of the students in the pilot are enrolled. The other half comes from the general student population.
We work with community partners to provide career readiness and life skills workshops, facilitate field trips aimed at exposure to the world of work, and bring in a variety of tech sector mentors to guide and inspire students.
Billionaire tech investor Robert Smith has spoken about the need for more software programmers: “The most fragile commodity on the planet isn’t oil or lithium or cobalt, it’s actually software programmers……. There are seven and a half billion people on the planet and only 29 million of us write code for a living.
This foundation is set for 2023 to create more ways for people to become software programmers in South Florida and to increase the importance of students getting a high-quality computer science education. Wherever you are with what you have, it’s time to get started. right now.
Dr. Marcus Bright is a scholar and social impact coordinator.