University of Delaware computer science professor Lori Pollock believes it is important for students to have exposure to computer science at an early age because it will give them a chance to explore the creativity and problem-solving involved with the field.

“Earlier access can help to build confidence and interest to participate in this technical field, which has become an integral component of almost every aspect of our society,” Pollock said.

A two-year, $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation is giving Pollock, along with several of her colleagues, the chance to bring computer science to middle school students from underrepresented communities, such as women, Hispanics and African-Americans. The so-called WeC4Communities grant is one of 37 development launch pilots under the NSF INCLUDES program.

The pilot program will take place this summer at the Bear Library and the Clarence Fraim Center Boys and Girls Club in Wilmington.

Pollock said she enjoys working with the students because she enjoys seeing their level of excitement after successfully completing projects.

“My favorite part of working with young people in computer science is watching their excitement when they show off their new creations that they coded, asking me to try it out, and seeing that they are watching my reactions with pride,” she said. “I also enjoy how they laugh and giggle as they interact with each other’s’ projects and work together to help each other make theirs more fun.”

Along with her colleagues, Pollock has also been working on programs to provide training for educators, who teach computer science to K-12 students.

The group has recently been awarded a three-year, nearly $1 million grant, which will go toward the Partner 4CS program. Since starting in 2013, the program provides K-12 teachers from Delaware the opportunity to come together for a weeklong professional development program this summer. Our sister site Technically Philly has covered similar programs at Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania.

According to Pollock, the key to successfully integrating computer science into K-12 classrooms is a well-trained educator.

“Many teachers who are taking up the challenge have not had formal education in computer science, but instead are science, math, business, or technology teachers who are inspired to learn to teach computer science because they see the benefits and importance for the youth,” she said. “Professional development for these teachers provides them with the technical skills, knowledge, pedagogy, and confidence to teach a subject mostly new to them.”

– Shabria Davis, Technically Delaware