KINGSTON, R.I. – March 7, 2016 — As Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo announced a new initiative today to have computer science taught in public schools throughout the state, she was already aware of the University of Rhode Island’s contributions to building the discipline in the state’s high schools.
A primary partner in Raimondo’s new CS4RI initiative, which aims to have every Rhode Island school system teaching computer science to its students by 2017, URI has two grants from the National Science Foundation totaling more than $3 million for projects to help URI faculty members work with the state’s secondary schools to develop computer science courses.
CS4RI is part of President Barack Obama’s CS4All initiative that he announced in January. CS4All is an initiative that includes an estimated $4 billion request by the president in the federal budget.
As part of URI’s NSF grants, five Rhode Island high schools are teaching URI’s Computing Concepts course and URI’s Joy of Programming course to their students for URI credit under the state’s Prepare RI program. For the 2016-17 school year, 15 Rhode Island high schools have committed to offering the College Board’s new Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles course with materials and teacher training provided by URI – a substantial step toward the CS4RI program goals.
“This is part of a massive national movement to get computer science into our schools”, said URI Computer Science Professor Victor Fay-Wolfe, the principal Investigator on the URI NSF-funded projects and founder of URI’s Digital Forensics Program, a national leader in digital forensics.
“We need to make sure all young people have computer science, programming, and computational thinking skills, like we try to do with math. It will be essential for them to be good citizens and an effective part of the workforce by the time that they graduate. Other states are doing this, the entire city of New York is doing it, and all of Great Britain is doing it. Rhode Island needs to commit to this effort if we want our kids to keep up with the digital revolution.
“Not only is it something our young students need, but a vast majority of them really embrace learning it – they see that computing can help express their creativity, communicate, do science and math, and do just about anything. We see great enthusiasm in the kids who are involved in the programs this year, and we hope to bring that enthusiasm to all kids in the state,” Fay-Wolfe said.
Mario Cirillo, head of school at Providence’s Academy For Career Exploration, a Providence School District career and technical charter school where 88 students are taking URI’s Computing Concepts course for URI credit, stated, “The Academy for Career Exploration is offering CS101 in collaboration with URI, where our students can earn up to four college credits upon graduation.
We are already actively engaging business, post-secondary and community partners to fortify our computer technology curriculum and provide innovative, relevant, project-based opportunities for learning, in alignment with the objectives outlined in the recent Brookings Institute report commissioned by Gov. Raimondo.”
COMPUTER SCIENCE IS COOL: Pawtucket high school students who are members of the Shea High School Robotics Club show a computerized robot they helped create in the after-school club. They demonstrated how two of their robots work at an announcement Monday at Tolman High School by Gov. Gina Raimondo to establish computer science classes in all Rhode Island schools. URI is a major part of the initiative. From left are: Ailton Vaz, a Tolman High School junior and Ana Brasil and Clifford Ginish of Shea High School. URI photo by Dave Lavallee