Reaching Out to Young Students: Science Bound Saturday

April 11, 2023

group of students in the autonomous systems lab

If you asked members of our faculty in the Department of Computer Science at Iowa State University what their favorite part of working with young students is, one of the things you would hear is their enthusiasm and love of computer science.

“High school students have so much energy, creativity, and capacity to learn,” said Tichakorn Wongpiromsarn, Assistant Professor of Computer Science.

Seeing that energy and creativity in person is one of the reasons why partnering with programs such as Science Bound is so special to the department. Science Bound focuses on reaching out to students across Iowa who are members of underrepresented groups in agriculture and STEM to increase their involvement from middle school through their graduation from Iowa State University. Our faculty enjoy working with the students and seeing them engage with our research.

“These kids are our future. It’s great to see them inspired!” said Ying Cai, Associate Professor of Computer Science. “The most engaging part is when students respond to my questions during and after the presentation.”

Science Bound is one of our department’s many activities related to broadening participation in computing (BPC). Our department is deeply committed to BPC activities in our outreach, teaching, and research, wanting to expand opportunities to people underrepresented in computing, such as women and members of ethnic or racial groups, including American Indian or Alaskan Native, Black, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and Hispanic/Latinx. Our department’s BPC plan includes activities such as outreach to Science Bound because they allow us to get a chance to work with young students and to encourage students who may have more difficult pathways to also succeed in computer science.

This year, eight high school seniors participated in our department’s activities.  Wallapak Tavanapong, Professor of Computer Science, shared with the students about the impact of computer science in daily life and that computer science is more than coding. Cai discussed the binary number system computers use for computation, storage, and networking. Students then visited our Autonomous Systems lab run by Wongpiromsarn. There, students learned about machine learning, saw a demonstration of robots led by two undergraduate research assistants, and then got a chance to drive the robots themselves.

student driving a robotstudent with black curly hair and glasses driving a robot

two female students working with machine learning

The students enjoyed seeing the applications of research and hearing about all the possible career opportunities in computer science. We hope that by engaging in activities such as these, young students will get more involved in computer science and join the field in the future.

“When I was in high school, I had no idea what computer science is beyond coding. I hope this event will help them get a better understanding of what computer science is and how it can benefit the world,” added Wongpiromsarn.

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