Thanks to a one-year $83,000 Google Community Technology grant, Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) will work to encourage K-12 students in underserved minority communities in Winston-Salem to pursue computer science careers, helping to address a critical need for IT professionals.

The Google grant will establish Computer Science ADVENTURES – a program designed to provide “adventures in computing” as a catalyst for encouraging underserved K-12 students in the community surrounding Winston-Salem State University to pursue formal study of computer science, said Dr. Elva Jones, chair of the WSSU Department of Computer Science. 

“We will develop and deliver a curriculum that will expose students to a wide range of computer science concepts,” Jones said. “Our project will focus on bridging the digital divide through ubiquitous learning, learning that can happen anywhere through mobile technologies the students have at their homes.”

Participants will build skills in areas such as coding, robotics, web design, mobile applications, and game development. Jones said WSSU computer science faculty and students will partner with Carter G. Woodson School, The Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club, and S.G. Atkins Community Development Center (CDC) to deliver this program to the community.

The program, which will begin January 2017, will be geared toward African American, Hispanic and female students.

In the next 10 years, studies indicate 1 million more computer science jobs than graduates. According to Google-Gallup research, only 21 percent of N.C. schools – below the national average – offered classes with programing and coding. The study also found that a smaller percentage of African American and Hispanic students participate.

Google resources, including Google’s CS First Curriculum (instructional videos and lesson plans) and other open resources will be used as supplements to expose students to computer science education and basics of coding.

“Google hopes this grant will both inspire young people to explore the worlds of science, technology, engineering and math and increase the flow of talented individuals entering careers in STEM fields,” said Lilyn Hester, Google head of Southeast external affairs.

More than 300 students are expected to participate in the program. WSSU will train a staff person at each partner institution to serve as project manager for adventure lab sessions and as a liaison to the university. In addition, the university will train student ambassadors at each partner institution to supplement the program.

The S.G. Atkins CDC will serve as the physical location where knowledge and resources are shared across the community, providing additional feedback for participants and their parents during weekend or evening programs, as well as a space for WSSU students to engage in additional service learning activities to support the project.

About Winston-Salem State University

Winston Salem State University fosters the creative thinking, analytical problem-solving, and depth of character needed to transform the world. Rooted in liberal education, WSSU’s curriculum prepares students to be thought leaders who have the skills and knowledge needed to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. Founded in 1892, WSSU is a historically Black constituent institution of the University of North Carolina with a rich tradition of contributing to the social, cultural, intellectual, and economic growth of North Carolina, the region and beyond. Guided by the motto, “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve,” WSSU develops leaders who advance social justice by serving the world with compassion and commitment.