by Evelyn Jones, Communications Coordinator, NH EPSCoR
To be competitive in the 21st century workplace, high school students today need to acquire strong computational skills and be able to connect and apply academic content to real-world challenges. The University of New Hampshire has been awarded a $750,000 five-year grant from the National Science Foundation EPSCoR program to develop a pilot project for students in the state’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) centers. The project, entitled “The Ecosystem Computing Challenge: Partnership Model to Build Access to Relevant Computing Education for Underrepresented High School Students,” (ECC) will be led by Mihaela Sabin, Associate Professor of Computer Science in the Computing Technology Program at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester, the university’s urban campus, in partnership with UNH Cooperative Extension and the New Hampshire Department of Education. Students in the ECC project will be challenged to help monitor, map, and provide understanding of New Hampshire’s natural ecosystems. Using data produced by the NH EPSCoR Ecosystems & Society project, they will learn computational thinking and engage with more rigorous computing by developing their own mobile applications using App Inventor, a free and open source programming language and platform. They also will have opportunities to meet and learn from computing professionals about computing careers and the thriving high technology sector in the state. The ECC project will provide professional development and curriculum resources for 22 teachers at New Hampshire’s Career and Technology Education centers, and will engage more than 400 high school students, specifically those populations underrepresented in computing education. The majority of these students live in metropolitan areas with the largest minority groups and in rural communities with the highest poverty level in the state. “This project will produce a model for novel partnerships between Cooperative Extension 4-H, high school teachers at CTE centers, and professionals from high technology companies,” said Sabin. “It is a model that can be replicated and adapted nationwide through the Cooperative Extension network.” Industry representatives, as volunteers with Cooperative Extension, will visit classrooms to share their expertise and offer the opportunity for students to visit potential employers to learn first-hand how technological innovations are brought to life. “They will be role models who can dispel stereotypical beliefs that women and minorities still have about not belonging in the professional computing field,” said Sabin. “The ECC project is an exciting opportunity to have a lasting impact on the education and career aspirations of students from underserved populations,” said Jan Nisbet, UNH Senior Vice Provost for Research and NH EPSCoR State Director. “The extensive data from the NH EPSCoR Ecosystem & Society project on how natural ecosystems function, and how people rely on ecosystems for their livelihood, will give students in this initiative the chance to create place-based and socially relevant applications which we believe will inspire them to consider a career in science, computing or engineering.” “I am very impressed with the work of Professor Mihaela Sabin and her university and community partners. The Ecosystems Computing Challenge will strengthen these partnerships while also significantly engaging underrepresented students to prepare them for a competitive, global, high-tech workplace. This highly innovative program represents the very best of who we are at UNH,” said Julie Williams, Senior Vice Provost for Engagement and Academic Outreach. The mission of NH EPSCoR is to broaden and strengthen New Hampshire's research capacity and competitiveness through research, education and economic development. For more information: www.nhepscor.org. The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a world-class public research university with the feel of a New England liberal arts college. A land, sea, and space-grant university, UNH is the state's flagship public institution, enrolling 12,200 undergraduate and 2,300 graduate students. For more information, contact Evelyn Jones, Communications Coordinator, NH EPSCoR.
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