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January 1993


By Richard Tapia, CRPC Director of Human Resources and Education

Through its educational outreach efforts, the CRPC helps to train a new generation of scientists and engineers who are familiar with both scientific problem solving and parallel computation, and encourages more students, particularly minorities and women, to enter educational programs in computational science and engineering. As part of this mission, the CRPC sponsors summer workshops at Rice University and the California Institute of Technology to introduce teachers and administrators at K-12 schools with significant minority enrollments to career opportunities in science, mathematics, and engineering. Through the workshops, attendees learn about scientific research areas, the job market, and how to encourage minority and female students to use computers and enter scientific fields. Through these and other educational programs, the CRPC has trained and encouraged more than 700 teachers and 750 students in math, science, and computer science education and careers. These teachers and students have in turn impacted thousands of students throughout our communities.

Minorities Teachers Computational Sciences and Graphics Awareness Program, the California Institute of Technology

At Caltech this summer, 21 Los Angeles-area high school teachers from schools with large minority enrollments attended the seventh Minorities Teachers Computational Sciences and Graphics Awareness Program. This five-day workshop introduces teachers to the most recent developments and opportunities in the areas of concurrent computing and graphics. The teachers then use this information to motivate their students to consider career opportunities in science and engineering. Participants are exposed to the cutting edge of these fields through presentations, demos, hands-on applications, and discussions with some of the world's leaders in new areas of concurrent computing, biotechnology, computer graphics, and their applications and interconnections.

"I became aware of a lot about computers and parallel computing and the application of math to computing," said Los Angeles High School teacher Richard Pemberton. "I thought the level of the presentations was excellent. By not oversimplifying, the presenters made me curious to learn more and suggested to me how the things I did know could be used in new or different ways." La Canada High School teacher Marianne English added, "The various agenda topics have provided exciting information to generate my students' interest in the sciences."

Mathematical and Computational Sciences Awareness Workshop, Rice University

The highly acclaimed Mathematical and Computational Sciences Awareness (MCSA) Workshop has been held annually for seven years. In giving attendees a better understanding of today's mathematical and computational sciences world, the MCSA prepares K-12 teachers, counselors, and principals to teach and counsel with increased authority and effectiveness. Presentations are given by scientists from the CRPC as well as other Rice faculty and industry leaders.

A highlight of the five-day MCSA program is a series of presentations by university students from the CRPC's Spend a Summer with a Scientist program. In addition, one day is devoted to speakers from industry and two days to training educators to use the Internet to locate and publish educational resources. A key component of this workshop is encouraging underrepresented minority students in the computational sciences.

"The workshop reinforced my strong conviction to make all students understand they are very capable and able to do math," said participant Sara Ptomey. "As a sixth-grade math teacher, I feel one of my main responsibilities is to have the kids lose their math anxiety and believe with all their hearts that they can understand and excel in math." To learn more about the MCSA, visit http://www.crpc.rice.edu/CRPC/MCSA /.

GirlTECH, Rice University

GirlTECH, a teacher-training program to encourage girls' use of computers, is in its second year of showing teachers how to locate and develop educational resources on the Internet. Mary Wiesner, a GirlTECH '96 participant, commented, "During this workshop/seminar I learned not only how to use software I had never seen, write HTML documents, access ftp files, scan pictures and put them in HTML documents, use my email software more effectively, and make home pages, but I also have some ideas about how I can work with one of my colleagues to write proposals so our students will be able to access the Internet and write home pages. I want my students to be on-line so that they can access valuable information from the Internet to use in my math classroom."

Representation issues and teacher practices that impact girls' interest in computers are a key component of GirlTECH. Participant Jane Holzapfel said, "After participating in GirlTECH, I am ready to take my students over the barriers of the classroom walls to participate in the global activities that hopefully will help them learn more about others with different cultural and educational backgrounds. It is important to note that GirlTECH was taught with an emphasis on helping us understand some of the biases toward women in engineering, math, and sciences. By examining these biases, it helped me to become more aware of ways to encourage girls to participate in these fields. Hopefully, the use of telecommunications in our classes will provide equity for all students." For more information about GirlTECH, visit http://teachertech.rice.edu/.

Girl Games Summer Research Project, Rice University

Girl Games, a project of the Austin, Texas firm Girl Games, Inc. and the CRPC, is also targeted to increasing girls' interest in computers. The project kicked off in 1995 with focus groups made up of roughly 30 junior and senior high school girls who looked at what is lacking in software on the shelves today, and discussed what girls want and need from technology as a whole in the future. This summer, four teams of 13 Houston-area middle school girls met with a computer graphic artist and a programmer at Rice University to conceive of, create, design, and produce four interactive CD-ROM prototypes. Participants were all computer literate and were divided into four groups to represent dominant ethnicities in the Houston Independent School District: African American, Hispanic, Caucasian, and Asian. During the project sessions, a sociologist observed the groups for sociological trends.

Among the suggestions for interactive software that would appeal to girls were a detective game based on the recent church burnings in the South ("Morality's Revenge"), an interactive magazine exploring sensitive issues such as gangs and teenage pregnancy ("MODE Magazine"), a maze-based history game in which the player matches art, music, and architecture to the proper time period ("A-maze-ing Journeys"), and a lifestyle game involving everything from home decoration to solving family problems ("It's My Life").

"I would recommend this experience to anyone," said Emily Smith of her daughter's participation in the project. "She was inspired and excited every day when I picked her up. I know that this experience will leave a lasting impression." Participants will present their interactive game concepts before family members, project staff, and the media at a demonstration on September 5, 1996. Project leaders hope that these ideas will be used as prototypes for commercial CD-ROMs. To learn more about Girl Games, see http://www.crpc.rice.edu/CRPC/Women/GirlGames / and http://www.girlgamesinc.com .

Science Academy of South Texas/Milby Science Institute Summer Intern Program

Thirty-two high school students and their teachers from the Science Academy of South Texas, and the Milby Science Institute in Houston visited Rice University for two weeks this summer to "experience college" and learn about various science and engineering fields. The program has been held for five summers and is sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Biological Sciences Education Program at Rice and the CRPC. Participants attended lectures and lab tours conducted by Rice faculty and graduate students, including students from the Spend a Summer with a Scientist program who also acted as very effective mentors. Most of the students who have been participants in the program have commented that the internship has been valuable in confirming their desire to study science and engineering and in preparing them for what to expect once they begin their college studies.

For information about all CRPC education programs, see http://www.crpc.rice.edu/CRPC/education or the 1995 CRPC education brochure at http://www.crpc.rice.edu/CRPC/edu-broc2/.

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