As assistant dean in the College of Computing, Cedric Stallworth helps develop a pipeline of qualified students from Atlanta Public Schools. He explains how computer science can liberate inner city youth.
A few years ago, during an admissions discussion about African-American students, it became painfully evident that even if Georgia Tech could enroll all eligible minority students in our state, Georgia still would have a shortage of computer scientists.
Computer science can transform the overlooked potential of kids from ailing communities into an in-demand workforce. By preparing Atlanta Public Schools (APS) students to help fill a predicted shortage of 1.4 million IT workers by the year 2020, we give them the opportunity to choose their future instead of one that is dictated to them.
We do it through creativity. While some choose to fight the public school bureaucracy, the Office of Outreach, Enrollment and Community at Georgia Tech takes a longitudinal, grassroots approach by giving APS students a weekly dose of creative self expression and problem solving through computing. We offer after-school programs in which Georgia Tech students lead computer science activities to mentor elementary, middle and high school students. We help them create a computer-controlled marionette puppet out of poster board, make a piano from paper, or sew and program an LED message matrix into a sweatshirt, for example. This past fall, we partnered with Usher Raymond’s New Look Foundation to introduce musical animation. In April, we held a robotics challenge with CareerBuilder that pitted robots made by middle and high school students against each other in a World-Cup-style soccer tournament. Next, we’re planning to hold a wearable electronics fashion show or a robotic NASCAR race. All of it infuses K-12 students with programming skills and nurtures them toward a future STEM career.
One of America’s core strengths is the unbounded creativity of its citizens. We must make sure that all parts of our population possess the imaginative skills that will move us forward. Just as one must master reading, writing and arithmetic, computing is needed now in all facets of life. Our programs are attempting to infuse Atlanta’s youth with the creative power of computing so they may make a better future for themselves and us all.
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