In an effort to increase computer science awareness among youth with disabilities, the University of Alabama, Auburn University, and United Cerebral Palsy of Birmingham collaborated to host two Computer Science Fun Days. The participants engaged in fun, interactive computer and robotics activities and learned about numerous opportunities in the field of computer science.
Each partner brought different skills and connections to the table. The university partners developed the content for the workshops. United Cerebral Palsy used its connections to promote the opportunity to the target audience. Auburn University and United Cerebral Palsy provided locations for the events.
Although the agendas for the events differed slightly, at each event participants worked together to program a Lego Mindstorm robot. After short demonstrations were performed, the participants were asked to help write the subsequent programs to instruct the robots to perform specific tasks such as dancing to music and following a line. The organizers asked a lot of questions to keep the participants engaged and focused on the task. In each event participants presented their work to the other participants and activity organizers.
Sample event agendas follow.
Event at Auburn University
- 5:15 – 5:30: Welcome, Introductions
- 5:30 – 6:45: Kodu, Alice and Lego NXT team work
- 6:45 – 7:00: Pizza Break
- 7:00 – 7:30: Kodu, Alice and Lego NXT team work (continued)
- 7:30 – 8:00: Participants showcased their work in front of their parents and siblings
Event at United Cerebral Palsy of Birmingham
- 5:30 – 6:00: Welcome, Introductions and Pizza
- 6:00 – 6:45: Lego Robot demonstration
- 6:45 – 6:55: Break
- 6:55 – 7:30: App Inventor demonstration
- 7:30 – 8:00: What can I do with CS?
Seventy students attended the events and organizers observed that the participants appeared to really enjoy the workshops. One student sent an email message stating that as a result of his participation he now wants to pursue more classes in computers science, including summer camps offered by local universities. It was also observed that writing and editing programs gave participants experienced how trial and error is used to solve problems. All experienced success in their efforts.
The Computer Science Fun Days is a promising practice for how organizations can work together to combine their individual strengths together to create something they could have accomplished on their own.
For more information on the Computer Science Fun Days including budget and organizer contact information visit Project Summary: Computer Science Fun Day.
This activity was been funded by a minigrant from The Computer Science Collaboration Project (CSCP). CSCP is partially funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Division of Computer and Network Systems, Broadening Participation in Computing (CNS-0940646).