Though Computer Science Education Week coincides with final exams at Mississippi State, computer science majors and faculty at the university train teachers and inspire students to discover computer science year-round.
Held Dec. 9-15, CSEdWeek is a national initiative emphasizing the transformative role of computers, as well as the importance of attracting diverse students to computer science education, said Donna Resse, MSU computer science department head.
"Because of the difficult timing of finals week, we're trying to reach out to local Mississippi schools to help them participate," the John Grisham Master Teacher said. "Students need to be fully computer literate so they can use whatever tools might be developed."
Before Thanksgiving, MSU computer science master's candidate Joshua I. "Josh" Crowson, of Louisville, led a computer-programming workshop for teachers at Highland Elementary School in Ridgeland. As a 2009 elementary education graduate of the university, he was prepared to help the teachers better motivate their students to get excited about computer science, Reese explained.
Crowson showed the teachers how to use "Scratch," a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-designed interactive computer-programming tool designed for students ages 8-16.
During the first week of December, assistant professor Cindy Bethel visited students at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science in Columbus to introduce the Finch robot. Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh developed the Finch, a computer-programing introductory bot.
"They are cool little robots. "They can play music, and they have a light in their nose," Reese said. "It's a cool thing to let the students listen to the music and write the program for the robots to dance."
Another aspect of 2013 CSEdWeek is the Hour of Code -- http://code.org -- an initiative encouraging 10 million students to write code during the week as they learn more about computer science. The Hour of Code is a one-hour introduction to computer programming, designed to demystify code and show that anyone can learn. Participants can visit the site any time during CSEdWeek.
While finals week at MSU is preventing department-wide emphasis and participation in the Hour of Code, Reese said she visited MSMS on Monday to discuss it and help with a corresponding activity. Organized by MSMS instructor Kendra Carr, a 2012 MSU computer science master's graduate, the Hour of Code activity included her students in introductory programming and robotics.
CSEdWeek is important for encouraging a broad range of students to pursue computer science education, Reese emphasized.
"We certainly need more students and a broad diversity of people involved in coding and the development of technology, so their products will be more likely to meet the needs of the users," she said. "We hope the activities this week encourage more students to think about a computer-oriented major."
Learn more about MSU computer science at http://cse.msstate.edu. For more about the university, see http://www.msstate.edu.