"CODE @ TACC will provide an impactful educational experience for both high school students interested in technology and the life sciences, and parents or teachers who want to engage their students in STEM", stated Mariel Robles, senior programme co-ordinator of Education and Outreach at TACC.
Recruiting for the programme will start in January 2015 at local Austin high schools. The programme will run for two weeks, June 15-26, 2015, and will be free for the selected participants.
The CODE @ TACC curriculum was developed by researchers and scientists at TACC who have expertise in teaching skills such as programming, parallel processing, and visualization techniques.
"Step one in achieving computing excellence is to build up a set of foundational skills, including programming, physical computing, basic electronic circuits, and robotics", stated Matt Vaughn, Director of Life Sciences Computing at TACC. "To tie these concepts to the real world, we're teaching them in the context of life sciences problems."
Students will use computing technology to explore relevant and interesting topics such as the human genome, personalized medicine, and imaging of the body - all critical to understanding how computation can help prevent or cure many common diseases and illuminate basic biological mechanisms.
According to Matt Vaughn, this innovative pilot programme wouldn't be possible without support from Mellanox Technologies, an industrial partner in TACC's STAR programme. Mellanox donated $25,000 towards supporting 'Excellence in Science & Technology' to TACC's Life Sciences Computing group, which is being used to jump-start CODE @ TACC. "We are pleased to support this activity", stated Scot Schultz, director HPC and technical computing at Mellanox Technologies. "The CODE @ TACC summer programme will build the foundation for the next generation of HPC professionals."
"With the implementation of CODE @ TACC, we want to create a pathway between our middle school camp and undergraduate research programmes", Mariel Robles stated. "At TACC, we strive to provide relevant and innovative educational programmes for K-12 students and it's very important for us to build long lasting relationships with those students. Our main goal is to inspire students, and show them the wonderful things that happen here."
The programme organizers encourage the participation of underrepresented students in the experience, especially those with limited access to technology. Traditionally, women, Latinos, African Americans, and Native Americans are the most underrepresented groups in terms of enrollment and degrees awarded within computing fields. "It's critical that everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the technological economy because we all bring unique perspectives and abilities to the table", Matt Vaughn stated.
Through a relationship-oriented approach, students will stay connected to CODE @ TACC and the latest technologies even after completion of the programme. Quarterly networking events will provide students and their families with the resources and space to "play and learn" with cutting-edge educational technology as well as share resources about college applications and STEM careers. These networking events will take place at the TACC Visualization Laboratory on the University of Texas at Austin main campus.
"In this advanced technological era, there is a great need to attract more students to careers in STEM fields", Mariel Robles stated.
A STEM education provides a strong foundation to open doors for many opportunities following graduation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, economic forecasts project a 20-33 percent increase in scientific and technical occupations within the coming decade. In addition, practitioners in many other fields including biology, chemistry, finance, and medicine will need computational skills.
"Our long-term goal is to reach out to more students and have the CODE @ TACC initiative implemented at other supercomputing centres, schools, universities, and organisations across the nation", Mariel Robles stated.