CAREER: Supporting Computational Algorithmic Thinking (SCAT)—Exploring the Development of Computational Algorithmic Thinking Capabilities in African-American Middle School Girls

The project at Spelman College includes activities that develop computational thinking and encourage middle school, African-American girls to consider careers in computer science. Over a three-year period, the girls attend summer camp sessions of two weeks where they learn to design interactive games. Experts in Computational Algorithmic Thinking as well as undergraduate, computer science majors at Spelman College guide the middle-school students in their design of games and exploration of related STEM careers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1737442
Funding Period: 
July 15, 2012 to June 30, 2019
Full Description: 

The Supporting Computational Algorithmic Thinking (SCAT) project at Spelman College includes activities that develop computational thinking and encourage middle school, African-American girls to consider careers in computer science. Over a three-year period, the girls attend summer camp sessions of two weeks where they learn to design interactive games. They participate in workshops, field trips, and game-design competitions. Experts in Computational Algorithmic Thinking as well as undergraduate, computer science majors at Spelman College guide the middle-school students in their design of games and exploration of related STEM careers.

Research on the development of Computational Algorithmic Thinking is an integral part of the project. The researcher is investigating how middle-school girls develop computational thinking and problem solving skills. Game design has been shown to be an area that is attractive to adolescents and it requires extensive problem solving and computational algorithmic thinking. Within the context of designing games individually and within groups, the researcher is assessing how the girls develop computational algorithmic thinking, and what difficulties they experience. Researchers are also assessing how the project experiences influence the students' self-perceptions of themselves as problem solvers. At the same time, the girls engaged in educational experiences where they are expected to gain knowledge in mathematics, programming, and reasoning, as well as game design. Research data consists of artifacts that the students have created, observations, participant journals, and interviews.

Computational Algorithmic Thinking is an essential skill for most STEM careers. African-American women are underrepresented in many STEM fields and especially in computer science. The goals of the project are to prepare girls with these essential skills and to increase their confidence in participating in STEM education. The project is also exposing participating girls to a wide variety of STEM careers. In addition, the materials, lesson plans, and activities generated in the project are available to be used, without charge, by other groups interested in designing similar programs.

This project was previously funded under award #1150098.