DARPA seeks to shape young minds

Educational program targets grade schoolers

The Defense Department’s research and development agency has started an initiative to increase the number of computer science graduates in the United States. The three-year, $14.2 million dollar program will use a variety of online tools and educational approaches to guide interested middle and high school students into pursuing computer science careers.

Managed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the computer science-science, technology, engineering and mathematics (CS-STEM) program’s goal is to expand the talent pool of applicants available for jobs to support secure DOD networks and to accelerate computer science innovation.

The interest in increasing the number of CS graduates has national security implications, DARPA officials said. According to the agency, since 2002, the number of U.S. college graduates with computer science or related degrees has dropped by 58.5 percent. To reverse these numbers, CS-STEM will focus on creating interesting activities and opportunities for middle and high school students that will increase in complexity as they progress through their education.

CS-STEM is built around three components: a distributed online community, an online robotics academy, and an extracurricular online community for students. The first section, known as “Teach Ourselves,” developed by the University of Arizona, will be a distributed online community of students and teachers. This environment is intended to introduce students to the knowledge economy, which is a matrix where students can track their progress through a variety of subjects.

The second component is the Fostering Innovation through Robotics Exploration, (FIRE) online robotics academy. Developed by Carnegie Mellon University, it will allow students to sharpen their skills at solving complex problems by educating them with algorithmic thinking skills, engineering processes, math, and programming knowledge. DARPA officials said FIRE is intended to significantly improve the educational value of robotics competitions by developing online cognitive tutors and simulation tools designed to use robots and programming to teach major mathematics concepts.

The final part of CS-STEM is an extracurricular online community for middle and high school students. It will use ongoing, age-appropriate practice, activities and competitions, educational content, discussion boards, mentoring and role models to develop skills and foster interest in CS-STEM careers. Collaborative activities, puzzles, games, webisodes, workshops and other content will be used to attract students to the site on a daily basis.

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Reader comments

Wed, Jan 5, 2011 Terry maryland

CS-STEM sounds like an excellent option for students. Where can you find out more about the program? How do you refer a potential student?

Mon, Oct 18, 2010 Doug

I *love* being a software engineer. If your goal in life is making money, get a degree in business. But not everyone is motivated by money alone. The the Atomic and Space Ages encouraged people to be scientists. The Information Age encouraged people to get into computers. Sadly the current Zeitgeist appears have us too focused on money. Hopefully DARPA (along with NASA and some private companies) can help encourage a Robotic Age.

Fri, Oct 15, 2010

There is a reason no one is choosing these careers. when is the last time you here of an engineer getting a 3 million dollar bonus for this years work? NEVER. its the people in the business and financial jobs making huge sums of money and being rewarded for being corrupt. 14 million wont cut it. Engineers, like myself are considered no more than endentured servants, and not the true professionals that we are.

Wed, Oct 13, 2010 Hank Al

The amount listed here ($14.2M) is nothing compared to the $200M plus MicroSoft sends to India each year for grant money. Also, many of the CS jobs are sent to India where labor is cheap. Like Don said, the amount of money earned in a CS job in the US relative to the cost of living and relative to the work effort is not what it used to be. These are factors that drive people to select a career.

Wed, Oct 13, 2010 Jeffrey A. Williams Frisco Texas

DARPA influencing young peoples minds is perhaps to some a slippery slope given that it was DARPA that manufactured and engineered many of the electronic voting machines currently or previously in use. None the less DARPA has also been insturmental in many technoligical advances that have greatly benifitted my fellow Americans for many years.

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