June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
11.1293.1 - 11.1293.23
The Game of Life Workshop - Reaching Out To High School Students With Disabilities Abstract
Since engineers and computer scientists build tools and provide solutions for diverse audiences, those who practice engineering should represent a diverse population. Among the several underrepresented groups in engineering and computer science are people with disabilities. Furthermore, people with disabilities pursue post-secondary education at a lower rate than their non-disabled peers. The combination of these factors suggest the importance of outreach efforts to help students with disabilities transition to and succeed in college and careers related to engineering and computer science.
This paper describes a week-long workshop related to computer science that is part of a one- week-long summer session of a multiple-year program for high school students with disabilities. The program and specific workshop have been offered every summer since 1994. The overall goal of the computer science workshop is to build confidence in the students as they create and build successful programs to solve specific problems. We evaluate the program by answering the questions: Can high school students with disabilities, and with little or no programming experience, be successful innovators and implementers of a week-long programming project? and How does workshop participation impact students’ futures and confidence? We demonstrate success of the computer science workshop by providing examples of students’ projects, a report from one workshop participant who is currently enrolled in college and a co-author of this paper, and data collected from participants over time.
The computer science workshop focuses on programming cellular automata, in the form of the Game of Life. Most workshop participants had no prior programming experience, yet many have used computers and assistive technologies. The Game of Life platform is appropriate for a program like this for several reasons: (i) it is not a typical introduction to programming, so even students who have programmed before learn something new, (ii) few actions need to be programmed but the reasoning can be challenging, (iii) the platform can be used for diverse projects related to games, simulations, graphics, and image processing.
In addition to describing the structure of the programming projects, the paper addresses several key aspects for making the workshop a success. First, the ratio of staff to students is one-to-one, giving each student direct access to a mentor and guide. Second, the Game of Life platform is flexible enough to provide every student the opportunity to work on a self-directed project. In the past, students have completed projects related to cellular automata theory, predator-prey games, image processing, and creating tactile maps for blind students. Letting students set their own course gives them ownership in their projects while relieving competition among students. Finally, students present their work to their peers and families during the final day of the workshop which provides external motivation for completing projects.
This paper serves to disseminate the workshop model and key properties to other colleges and universities so that engineering and computer science may attract a more diverse population. We
VanDeGrift, T., & Burgstahler, S., & Ladner, R., & Poginy, A. (2006, June), The Game Of Life Workshop Reaching Out To High School Students With Disabilities Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--335
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