DO-IT Program Named "Champion of Cyberspace"

Rodney and L.G. Blanchard

The University of Washington's (UW) DO-IT program has been nationally recognized for its innovation and excellence-- DO-IT captured first place in the education category of the first annual National Information Infrastructure (NII) Awards program and was one of six programs honored at the NII awards ceremony on July 12 in Washington, D.C. The awards recognize some of the country's most innovative and practical uses of the Internet.

Dick Cavett was master of ceremonies at the awards banquet and Vice President Al Gore participated via a videotaped message. The judges reviewed more than 500 entries and the judges' final decisions were announced for each of the six categories: arts and entertainment, business, community, education, government and health. Dr. Sheryl Burgstahler, DO-IT director, accepted the NII award on behalf of DO-IT. Dr. J. Ray Bowen, project Principal Investigator and Dean of the UW College of Engineering, also attended the ceremony.

Now in its third year, DO-IT, funded primarily by the National Science Foundation, focuses on high school students with disabilities who are interested in science, engineering, mathematics or technology. The DO-IT Scholars part of the DO-IT program has two main components:

  • Each summer, participants spend two weeks on the UW campus getting an introductory look at exciting careers in these fields. They also learn how technologies are generally making it easier for the disabled to attend college and live normal lives. And they interact with students and faculty with disabilities who have already faced many of the challenges they are encountering.
  • Year-round, DO-IT Scholars use home computers and electronic mail to link up with each other and others around the world--including mentors who hurdled similar obstacles before succeeding in their respective fields. For instance, program mentors include a lecturer in computer science at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland who is hearing impaired.

If a student doesn't own a computer, they can borrow one from DO-IT, along with a modem and any other necessary adaptive equipment and software.

The summer 1995 residential program, scheduled to begin Aug. 6, will bring 20 new DO-IT scholars to the UW campus from Idaho, Oregon, Montana, North Dakota and Washington. They will be joined by returning students from among 36 participants in one or more of the program's first two residential programs.

In addition to DO-IT, other NII award winners were HotWired, (arts and entertainment); National Materials Exchange Network (business); the Alzheimer's Disease Support Center (community); the Utah Library Network Initiative (government); and the Information Network for Public Health Officials of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (health).

The NII refers to the nationwide combination of public and private computer networks operated by businesses, commercial carriers, schools, communities and government agencies. The NII awards were sponsored by more than 70 industry, government and community organizations as part of a public education program to accelerate the development and use of the information superstructure.

Note: You can reach the NII Awards home page through the DO-IT home page. Look for the "news flash".