What's the best way to spark an interest in computer science and engineering? Start early. That’s the goal behind a two-year $1 million gift from the Hopper-Dean Foundation to three STEM education programs at MIT.
The programs — Saturday Engineering Enrichment and Discovery (SEED) Academy, CodeIt, and the Women’s Technology Program (WTP) in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science — aim to diversify the computer science and engineering community by introducing students who are underrepresented and underserved in the field to computer science. These students include women, students who come from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and students who identify as African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino, or Native American/Pacific Islander.
“We are so pleased to receive generous support from the Hopper-Dean Foundation for these critically important programs,” said Anantha Chandrakasan, head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “We hope that, with these resources, we can help an even broader range of students learn to love engineering and computer science.”
A key focus of the gift is removing obstacles some students may face, for example, through reducing or eliminating program fees, or providing transportation for students who cannot get to weekend programs on their own.
The gift will also support publicity and outreach for MIT’s Society of Women Engineers (SWE) chapter, including support for other K-12 STEM education initiatives organized through SWE, and expanding SWE’s impact on undergraduate women at MIT.
SEED Academy, based in the MIT Office of Engineering Outreach Programs, is a nine-semester academic enrichment and career exploration program for public middle and high school students from Boston, Cambridge, and Lawrence, Massachusetts. Students who have a strong academic record and interest in science and engineering complete semester-long modules on subjects from mechanical engineering to robotics to synthetic biology. The program aims to provide highly talented students from underserved and underrepresented communities with challenging experiences that will prepare them to apply to competitive universities and pursue studies in technical fields.
CodeIt, founded by a team of undergraduate women engineers at MIT, teaches middle school (6th to 8th grade) girls fundamental programming concepts. Organized by the MIT Society for Women Engineers (SWE), the program is aimed at teaching coding principles in a friendly learning environment with undergraduate mentors, and ultimately equipping girls with the skills to continue pursuing computer science.
The Women’s Technology Program, or WTP, encourages high-school girls to pursue engineering and computer science by introducing them to these subjects in a hands-on, team-based format with female teachers and mentors. The four-week residential and academic summer program targets girls who are outstanding math and science students, but who have not yet had opportunities to explore engineering or computer science.
The Hopper-Dean Foundation is a California non-profit corporation supported by the generosity of Heidi Hopper and Jeffrey Dean.
“With the growing importance of computing and computer science across many fields of endeavor, we feel very strongly that the world's computer scientist population should reflect the world's population and diversity,” said Jeffrey Dean and Heidi Hopper. “This gift is designed to explore ways that we can all do better at bringing traditionally underrepresented groups into this important and exciting field."