Educators Train at CU to Build Kids' Interest in Computer Science

More than 50 K-12 educators and 15 community college students from Colorado and two other states are participating in teaching programs at the University of Colorado at Boulder this summer in order to take video game programming back to the classroom.

The Scalable Game Design curriculum aims to stimulate student interest in computer science -- a field waning in popularity among youth, according to program organizers.

Attendees of the teaching programs represent Colorado school districts in Boulder, Denver, Aurora, Fort Lupton, Pueblo, Trinidad and Brighton, as well as the state of Alaska, the Pine Ridge Ogallala Reservation in South Dakota and the Girl Start and Cool Girls Inc. programs, which are dedicated to empowering girls to excel in technology, science and math.

Participants in the Computer Science for High School, or CS4HS, workshop on campus June 25-27 will learn award-winning software called AgentSheets, which was developed by Alexander Repenning, associate professor of computer science at CU-Boulder. AgentSheets is designed for young students to create video games similar in style to Frogger, a 1980s arcade game, and develop the skill base to progress to more sophisticated computation science applications. Google Inc. and AgentSheets Inc. are sponsoring the workshop.

"The educational benefit from Scalable Game Design does not come from playing games, but from learning by creating games," said Repenning. "Video game programming is highly attractive not just to the usual suspects, but to girls and underrepresented communities -- groups we seek to engage.

"The Scalable Game Design curriculum helps lay the tracks for computer science careers beginning in middle school and continuing through to graduate school," he said. "We've been very pleased with the outcome in terms of both teacher participation and the number of young students involved. Many have indicated they'd like to continue pursuing information technology after getting their feet wet in video game programming."

The two-week Scalable Game Design summer institute on campus, which ended June 11, also familiarized educators with the AgentSheets software. The summer institute is an annual offering through CU-Boulder's iDREAMS project, started by Repenning in 2008 with a three-year $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation. iDREAMS investigates the potential impact of early education in computer science on information technology fields and is projected to impact more than 7,500 youth during the course of the project.

Team members from iDREAMS include researchers from CU-Boulder's computer science department and School of Education, the Science Discovery and Upward Bound outreach programs, as well as AgentSheets Inc.

For more information on CU-Boulder's Scalable Game Design programs visit scalablegamedesign.co.colorado.edu. For more information on AgentSheets Inc. visit www.agentsheets.com.

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