Today, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at The University of Texas at Austin announced that it is accepting applications for the second annual CODE@TACC summer program designed to prepare rising high school juniors and seniors for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) careers by teaching principles of computing technology using microcomputers and real-world examples.
Recruiting for the program will start in January 2016 at local Austin high schools, and is expected to draw applicants from across the state with the new addition of a summer, residential component. The program will run for two weeks, June 12-24, and will be free for the 30 selected participants.
A STEM education provides a strong foundation to open doors for many opportunities following graduation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, economic forecasts project a 20-33 percent increase in scientific and technical occupations within the coming decade. In addition, practitioners in many other fields including biology, chemistry, finance, and medicine will need computational skills.
The program is designed to introduce essential technology concepts and skills for working in a world where everything is connected, aware, and in some cases, even intelligent.The program organizers encourage the participation of underrepresented students in the program, especially those with limited access to technology or programming experience. Traditionally, women, Latinos, African Americans, and Native Americans are the most underrepresented groups in terms of enrollment and degrees awarded within computing and technology fields.
CODE@TACC focuses on providing an experience that mirrors the research process, where there might be a few kinks to work out and one's best teachers are fellow students. "Last year, students were highly engaged with a program that was technically, really challenging, and we were collaborating in real time with them to make everything work together. I think they really enjoyed the authenticity of that experience," said Matt Vaughn, Director of Life Sciences Computing at TACC. "Students contributed to the Github.com code repository we were using to run the class, and we had students who were mentoring other students on skills they had just learned themselves. That was really rewarding to see."
The CODE@TACC curriculum is developed by researchers and scientists at TACC who have expertise in using and teaching skills such as programming, parallel processing, machine learning, and visualization techniques. According to Vaughn, "the program is designed to introduce essential technology concepts and skills for working in a world where everything is connected, aware, and in some cases, even intelligent."
This year's CODE@TACC will be divided into two halves. The first week will consist of a Wearables Lab, where students will work in teams to design and build microcomputer-powered devices similar to an Apple Watch or FitBit that can measure environment conditions and motion and wirelessly transmit that information to the cloud for later display and analysis. The second week will be a Robotics Lab where students will explore fundamental concepts for autonomous machines: sensing the world, responding to it, and moving around in it by programming their robots to meet a series of fun challenges.
In addition to interactive, hands-on activities and high-level engagement with TACC researchers and scientists, the program includes panel presentations from undergraduates and professionals, and local industry site visits to increase awareness about STEM careers in computing.
"CODE@TACC addresses a huge societal and workforce problem," said Rosalia Gomez, TACC's Education and Outreach manager. "With support from community partners, we are excited to introduce the residential component in 2016. This will help alleviate a transportation challenge for many underserved students, and will further facilitate their transition from high school to a four-year university."