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TTU News

TapestryConferenceComputer scientists will be in the highest demand of all the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines soon, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, and a workshop at Tennessee Tech University aims to help meet that demand.

The three-day Tapestry 2011 Workshop, will give high school teachers new techniques to draw and retain more students, especially women, to computer science.

“K-12 education in computer science and technology has fallen behind in preparing students in today's digital age,” TTU computer science professor Ambareen Siraj said. “While the picture is not bright all over the states, it is especially gloomy for Tennessee.”

The last several months have been spent organizing the department’s first professional development workshop in at least two decades, according to computer science professor Martha Kosa, who, with Siraj, is responsible for bringing the series to Cookeville.

The workshop is part of an initiative from the University of Virginia, Teachers Attracting Girls to High School Computer Science. This year is the first time the program will be offered elsewhere with the help of a grant from the National Science Foundation. TTU is the first to offer the program; the University of Delaware will hold another later this month.

High school teachers will have the chance to share strategies and ideas to make computer science more attractive to students.

“You want to try to highlight that computer science is creative,” Kosa said. “You want to highlight that you can create an application for almost anything that you can imagine.”

Advanced placement computer science teachers from across the country will come to TTU’s Millard Oakley STEM Center July 5 through 7 to hear a variety of speakers talk about different methods to attract young women and men to the field. Dozens of applications were screened to select the 30 teachers who will come to the workshop.

Though the AP science course is not offered at regional high school, local science teachers have also been invited so discussions about bringing computer science to the school can begin.

“We have no computer science students coming from Cookeville,” Siraj said. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but everything has to start somewhere.”