"A world-class education is the single most important factor in determining not just whether our kids can compete for the best jobs but whether America can outcompete countries around the world." said President Barack Obama on July 18, 2011. But the idea of competing for the best jobs or continued global economic competitiveness does not inspire a 13 year old to study.
According to U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, the number of computer science Bachelor degrees awarded from 2008-2009 decreased 36.1 percent from 2003-2004. With this in mind, DARPA last year launched a $14.2 million effort called Computer Science-STEM (CS-STEM), which brings a computer science focus to a portfolio of STEM programs that includes ENGAGE, INSPIRE and MENTOR. The goal is to accelerate the rate of computer science innovation by encouraging students toward education and careers in the field. A program milestone was reached recently with the release of an educational gaming website.
Program performer TopCoder, Inc. released www.NoNameSite.com this month. The name for the site was selected from TopCoder’s user community. The website seeks to provide a community of 13-18 year olds with competitive and collaborative games, contests and online events. The content is intended to have a high entertainment value, and cash prizes are awarded. Mentoring is provided through forums and blog postings, and many of the games are collaborative, adding to the interactive experience.
“The peer experience of NoNameSite.com will differentiate it from other game-based technologies,” said U.S. Navy Captain Russ Shilling, Ph.D., DARPA program manager. “The number of activities offered and the adaptable nature of the site draws students in fostering increased interest in computer science.”
Another approach under development at Carnegie Mellon University is the Computer Science Student Network, which promotes computer skills by allowing students to learn to program robots within a virtual environment.
See DARPA for more information: http://www.darpa.mil/NewsEvents/Releases/2011/09/27.aspx