Fifteen high school students are learning how to build robots and create mobile apps during the 4th annual CPU Computer Camp for African-American Boys at Bowie State University.
For the first time, the camp – started by Dr. Daryl Stone, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science – received a grant from the Mid-Atlantic Consortium-Center for Academic Excellence, which is providing $10,000 each year for five years to support the cost of BSU undergraduate and graduate students who work as camp counselors.
Eight more students are learning computer programming in a complementary “Girls Who Will” camp for girls, under the direction of Dr. Quincy Brown, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science. Dr. Stone said his work on his dissertation prompted him to start the CPU Camp. In an examination of “clogs” in the pipeline of African-American males entering science, technology, engineering, and technology (STEM) fields, he found that educators need to introduce African-American boys to STEM fields in middle and high school to make a significant difference.
Often, because African American students aren’t introduced to the possibilities in STEM careers until college, they may not have taken the most challenging math and science classes or taken their class seriously, which limits their opportunities in STEM careers, he said.
“What we try to let them know is that there’s a big gap in the number of jobs available in STEM and the number of people who are majoring in STEM,” Dr. Stone said.
Not only do the male campers learn about STEM fields, they also participate in lessons twice a week on what it means to be a man, like a recent session on managing a household budget.
The camp has yielded positive outcomes. Three past participants are in college now, and two are studying in STEM fields, Dr. Stone said. Last year, 26 out of 30 participants said in post-camp surveys that they would consider applying to Bowie State.
The BSU camp counselors are also getting a lot out of the experience. Kourtney Ramseur, a BSU senior in computer technology, said one of her favorite lessons was when a Microsoft-certified professional showed them how to create an app that notifies the user of a new post on a blog.
“Really, this is all new to me. I’m learning right along with them,” she said.
Justin Edwards, BSU senior in computer technology, also sees the impact of the camp on the high school participants. “It sparks something inside of them. As camp counselors, we’re telling them about the experiences we faced in college and giving them the idea that you need to be focused when you get here.”