The Computing Pipeline: A foundation for diversifying computer science

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For many high schoolers, the daunting task of choosing a career path starts early on in the classroom. Perhaps it begins with a teacher who motivates thinking, or a subject that creates engagement. But for most, it develops into a passion with continual exposure. Unfortunately, not every high school has the robust programming to give a fair chance to each possible career path. The hope of those leading the Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) program at the University of Chicago is to spark an interest in computer science for those who might not have the opportunity to explore everything the field entails.

One of the biggest efforts for the BPC program has been offering summer courses and workshops to students from first-generation, low-income, and historically underserved backgrounds. The classes, which are taught by UChicago faculty, take a hands-on approach to the field of computing and allow students to create a deeper connection with what they are learning. In a post-course survey, students cited they appreciated that part the most.

“I enjoyed the interactive aspect. A lot of courses don’t give that. It allows me to understand more because I learn better with a hands-on experience.”

This past summer, 40 rising high school seniors registered for courses that included areas of study like artificial intelligence, computer hacking, and internet equity. Professor Nick Feamster, who taught How Your Home Internet Works, from Bits to Policy, wanted students to come away with both a technical understanding of how the modern Internet works and a deeper understanding of how local, state, and federal policy affects Internet infrastructure in the United States. Armed with an understanding of Internet measurement, students then learned how that measurement data would drive investments in Internet connectivity, from infrastructure investment to subsidy programs. The class shined a light on the vast amount of racial disparity present in Internet infrastructure. The idea is that this kind of powerful information ultimately drives future change.

This long-term sustained engagement of high school students, which is a cornerstone of the departmental BPC efforts, is a result of a fruitful collaboration with the College Readiness and Access Programs of the Office of Civic Engagement. 

Click here to read the full story. 

This story was first published by UChicago Department of Computer Science. 

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