Goshen College’s Digital Eve group, led by Jeanette Shown, associate professor of computer science and information technology, and Meghan Gerke, a junior information technology major, received an $8,500 grant from Google’s IgniteCS program, an initiative that supports student groups that are committed to developing and delivering a computer science outreach program in their community. GC’s program is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2016.
The group will use the grant to fund a local teaching program that will educate students in Elkhart County and St. Joseph County about computer science and programming “from hardware up to software,” Shown said. “The idea is to spark more interest in computing and science.”
According to Shown, participants will learn to use and program Raspberry Pi computers, single-board computers the size of a credit card; learn Python, a common programming language; and then pull their knowledge together in a third part of the project which Shown says may involve the video game Minecraft.
They will put out a call for Goshen College student applications and then hire students to help with the program.
“The program gives exposure to our students who are interested in teaching, helps schools that have been chosen and highlights our program at Goshen College,” said Shown.
The application process for the grant involved drafting a statement for the project and then allocating their own budget. Shown created a template for the budget and then Gerke filled in the rest. “It was a 50-50 effort,” said Shown.
Shown and Gerke have been communicating during the summer, discussing books that they could use for the project and getting ready for fall.
Colleges that apply for the IgniteCS grant are required to belong to a women in computer science group. GC has a chapter of Digital Eve, an organization based in Seattle that supports women in technology. “We also can have Digital Adams: men who support women in technology,” said Shown.
This year, Digital Eve members hosted several homework meetups, had pizza nights, watched The Matrix together and hosted a fundraiser to support Syrian refugees.
Shown stressed the importance of programs like IgniteCS.
“I believe Indiana is very behind when it comes to teaching computer programming to its students,” she said. “In fact, we have a terrible brain-drain that doesn’t leave us much in Indiana to work with. One of our goals is to have more people who understand computers to do more computer programming and start companies. Our people are just as smart as anybody else’s.”
The grant is renewable, so if all goes well this year Shown plans to apply again next year. “I think it’s a great teaching experience for Goshen students,” she said.
– By Grace Weaver ’16