The National Science Foundation has recognized the severity of this problem and funded the CRPC and other Science and Technology Centers (STCs), not only for the purpose of conducting groundbreaking research, but also for training and encouraging new generations of scientists that represent the full spectrum and diversity of our population. Our researchers, faculty members, graduate students, and industrial affiliates are sharing their excitement and passion for their work, inspiring students from kindergarten through adult education.
Since it began in 1989 with National Science Foundation funding matched by Rice University funds, the CRPC's Education/Outreach program has complemented the center's research program. From the start, our center's mission would require not only the keenest minds to develop groundbreaking technologies and solve stubborn problems, but also the most diverse community of people to continue the research and teach others to use the emerging technologies.
Beginning with a handful of devoted CRPC faculty, staff, and students, our outreach program has, in less than a decade, trained and encouraged more than 750 students and 700 teachers in math, science, and computer science education and careers. These students and teachers have in turn impacted thousands of students throughout our communities. The full story is not only in the quantity and diversity of the students, but in the quality of life-building experiences they have gained.
In the pictures and words of our students and teachers, we have chronicled the growing number and impact of our programs: from a single student seeing his future expand because of a new course offering in parallel computation...to one-on-one mentorships that build career interests in research...to small support groups that address common handicaps to be recognized and overcome...to classrooms of teachers opening their minds and their students' lives to new opportunities...to the fostering of a model K-8 school in technology training...to a committed network of diverse institutions pooling and sharing their special resources...to a group of experienced scientists willing to stretch their horizons by learning the latest research developments. As we have carried out these programs, people have asked why we need more underrepresented students involved and excelling in scientific disciplines. I tell them that our scientific disciplines can proceed without underrepresented students, but a country in which one group controls mainstream activity becomes economically and socially unhealthy. As the number of minority role models increases, younger generations will become involved in scientific fields, helping to reverse cycles of alienation, underachievement, and poverty. Eventually, the need for women and minority "jump-start" programs will diminish, and we will consider this aspect of our mission a success.
Including the broadest cross-section of people also helps us better understand what science is about and helps us overcome the problems that occur when science isolates itself from the rest of society. With more interaction with the community, we can often see how our work should be evaluated, modified, or changed.
The CRPC has shown that sharing knowledge and resources can greatly benefit society as a whole. Our consortium of universities and laboratories has set the pace that universities into the 21st century must maintain and increase if our country is to successfully face its crisis in K-12 math and science education. It is our hope that other university, industrial, and research groups will join us to help strengthen America's education programs, technological position, and economic and social health into the next century and beyond.
Dr. Richard Tapia, Noah Harding Professor of Computational and Applied Mathematics, Rice University; Director of Education and Human Resources, CRPC; and Associate Director for Minority Affairs, Rice University
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