The National Science Foundation has awarded a three-year $469,369 grant to improve access to computer science instruction for Maine high school students. This project is led by the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance in partnership with RSU 26 in Orono and the University of Maine at Augusta.
Nationally, teaching and learning computer science opportunities at both the high school and college level lags well beyond the demands of the 21st century workforce. In Maine, estimates suggest occupations for workers with college degrees in a computer science related field is expected to increase dramatically over the next few years. By 2018 it is estimated that 1,777 new jobs will be available for graduates of these programs yet Maine’s university system currently produces less than 50 bachelor’s degrees in computer science each year. This rate of production is insufficient to fill the vacancies available each year at just one of Maine’s major computer science companies, let alone fulfill the state’s needs. Experts say the key to narrowing this gap is getting more students engaged in computer science before they reach college.
Building upon the highly successful research-based Exploring Computer Science (ECS) curriculum and teacher professional development materials, the major goal of the project is to prepare 75 high school teachers to implement ECS with their students. The project will also build, grow, support and sustain a community of high school computer science teachers and will work with the Maine DOE to develop educational policies that encourage teaching and learning of computer science.
Five business partners from Maine will participate to incorporate workplace computer science examples into the professional development program for teachers. Maine business partners include Axiom Technologies, The Jackson Laboratory, the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, Kepware Technologies and LL Bean.
Superintendent of Schools at RSU 26 and Co-Principal Investigator Joanne Harriman will establish a model site and lead teacher recruitment. Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost at the UMA Dr. Joseph Szakas is responsible for development and implementation of a computer science methods course.