Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science

Outreach Initiatives

Computer science as a field faces incredible challenges. Only one in four schools offer any form of digital literacy classes — a staggering number, given that the U.S. will have about 1.4 million computer science-related jobs in 2020. As it stands now, we’ll only have enough CS grads nationally to fill about a third of them. To make matters worse, most of the schools that offer CS classes reside in affluent school districts, creating a big knowledge gap between kids from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

In SCS, we’re working hard to bridge that gap and introduce students to computer science well before they get to college. Check out how we’re giving students, teachers and community organizations more access to computer science resources, and how you can help us in our efforts. We've also included programs that help current SCS students during their time at CMU. This list will grow and change over time, so be sure to check back frequently.

SCS Outreach Programs

Alice

Alice is an innovative block-based programming environment that makes it easy to create animations, build interactive narratives, or program simple games in 3D. Unlike many puzzle-based coding applications, Alice motivates learning through creative exploration. The interface aims to teach logical and computational thinking skills, fundamental principles of programming and to be a first exposure to object-oriented programming. The Alice Project provides supplemental tools and materials for teaching using Alice across a spectrum of ages and subject matter with proven benefits in engaging and retaining diverse and underserved groups in computer science education.

Carnegie Mellon AI4ALL

Carnegie Mellon AI4ALL gives rising juniors and seniors with a strong interest in computer science the chance to study artificial intelligence with CMU faculty, staff and researchers who are leaders field. The goal? Learning to leverage AI for social good.

CMU CS Academy

Founded by two of the School of Computer Science's award-winning teaching professors, the CS Academy aims to create an entirely free, online, interactive high school computer science curriculum. CS Academy provides teachers with training, an online interactive textbook, online technical support and more.

CoBox (Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy)

CoBox is a special activity box that helps children co-design video games with CMU researchers and designers, even under restrictive quarantine conditions. Children complete fun and engaging activities in the box and then upload pictures and narrations of their work. The submissions help the CMU researchers with big ideas and little ones, from how the game looks to the story it tells.

Computer Science Scholars Program

This newly developed precollegiate initiative will launch in summer 2021 and focus on teaching digital literacy and foundational computer science-related skills. The program targets rising high school juniors and seniors from across the country. Students participate in a rigorous, residential academic experience on CMU's campus.

Computer Science STEM Network

This learning management system offers hundreds of hours of research-based, outcomes-driven curriculum. Students and teachers can freely use the site to learn and earn badges in a variety of topics, including robotics, computer science and related fields. The site has nearly 27,000 users who have earned more than 2 million achievements.

CS Roadshow

The Roadshow is an interactive presentation delivered by SCS students to inform and engage K-12 students, teachers, and parents about computer science. The entertaining slideshow contains problem-solving activities, and also tackles questions like "Who can be computer scientists?" and "What can you do with computer science?" The presentations usually happen on campus and in K-12 schools. SCS students have also developed an online version available for download.

ETC

The Entertainment Technology Center shares its process with students to help them create their own experiences across a variety of platforms and media. The center wraps the process in interactions like play-testing and deploying transformational games and experiences developed at the ETC.

Every1online

The digital divide and the homework gap have long been issues, and COVID-19 has highlighted these old inequities and strained inequitable systems to their breaking points. SCS has worked with Meta Mesh WIreless Communities and other community partners to provide a structural solution to the inequitable wireless access in historically underserved communities: wireless internet service providers (WISPs). The team co-designs community-based WISPs and the longer-term cost-coverage models that will sustain them.

Girls of Steel Robotics

This after-school outreach effort at CMU's Field Robotics uses the FIRSTĀ® robotics platform for K-12 programs. FIRST is an international organization that holds competitions to engage the students. More than a robotics team, Girls of Steel Robotics is a program of FIRST teams and community outreach, serving girls and boys in grades K-12 in Greater Pittsburgh.

HARP Lab Tours

The Human and Robot Partners Lab (HARP) welcomes children and adults to learn more about how robots can be designed to work well with people. The lab may also demonstrate an assistive robot, depending on availability.

Homewood Children's Village

In partnership with Technovation and the Homewood Children's Village, SCS is bringing Technovation's AI Family challenge to Pittsburgh. Through Technovation Families, students and their families explore core artificial intelligence concepts and apply AI tools to problems in their communities. Participants also have the opportunity to enter their ideas into a global competition.

Laptop Loaner Program

Not every SCS student can afford to replace a laptop if theirs breaks, and we recognize that this shouldn't be a barrier to success. To help alleviate the stress of not having the tools they need to complete their work, we've made multiple machines available that SCS students in need can borrow.

Microsoft TEALS

Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) is a Microsoft Philanthropies program that connects classroom teachers with tech-industry volunteers to create sustainable CS and technology education programs. Through remote and in-person collaboration, instructors learn to teach CS independently over time to ensure all young people are equipped for the future. SCS is Microsoft's Pittsburgh university partner. CMU is also the leading provider of volunteers for the program nationwide.

Middle School Bridge

Many students leave middle school without the basic skills they need for STEM success in high school. SCS has created a bridge program to help close that gap, catching participating rising 9th graders up on the math skills they need before their first semester of high school. By intervening early, the program hopes to better prepare more Pittsburgh students to pursue STEM majors in college.

NREC Tours for Schools and Educational Organizations

The National Robotics Engineering Center provides tours for schools and groups to show kids the real-world application of the robotics concepts they learn in school. Participants see all of the robots and technology that the centers develops for use out in the world from different sectors like agriculture, defense, maintenance and more.

OurCS: Opportunities for Undergraduate Research in Computer Science

This three-day research-focused workshop aims to improve gender balance in computing research. Undergraduate students from the U.S. and around the globe converge at CMU to work on exploratory problems in small teams led by faculty and researchers from industry and academia. Workshop participants learn about computer science research, but also gain insight into graduate school life from the perspective of current graduate students.

PASS Kits

Through support from the SCS Parents' Emergency Fund, SCS now provides mental health first aid kits for every incoming first-year SCS student. These kits provide some basic self-care items to help students deal with stress, and information about on-campus and national mental health resources.

picoCTF

This free computer security gamified education program offers original educational content built on a capture-the-flag framework created by CMU security and privacy experts. Learners of all skill levels gain access to a safe and unique hands-on experience as they reverse-engineer, break, hack, decrypt, and think creatively and critically to solve challenges and capture digital flags. They learn and practice cybersecurity principles with picoCTF's noncompetitive features, then put their skills to the test in one of picoCTF's hacking competitions.

Pittsburgh Robotics Competition

CMU Robotics Academy (CMRA) staff volunteer to help set up, referee or participate in judging robotics competitions in and around Pittsburgh throughout the year. Because CMRA started the competitions in 2000, the organization has a longstanding relationship with several schools and organizations that host these competitions.

Precollege Program in Computational Biology

Biological and medical research have become fully fledged computational disciplines. Tomorrow's life scientists need deep knowledge of not only the laboratory techniques to generate experimental data but also the rigorous computational techniques necessary to analyze and model these data. The Precollege Computational Biology program offers an unparalleled experience for high school students to explore this relationship in a university setting.

Robotics Merit Badge (Merit Badge University)

This programs gives young BSA scouts the opportunity to earn the Robotics Merit Badge as part of Alpha Phi Omega's Merit Badge University days.

SCS Emergency Fund

Generous contributions from parents of current and former SCS students have allowed us to create a fund to offer limited financial support to students for emergencies, supplies and unanticipated events.

SMART-ER

SMART-ER works with local Pittsburgh community organizations in underserved areas to train members of organizations to teach youth and young adults the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed for robotics technician positions. This PA Registered Pre-Apprenticeship Robotic Technician program consists of five microcertifications focusing on five foundational areas: mechanical, electrical, software, fabrication and robotics integration. Programs include free training for the trainers, initial materials and support for a successful program. The program has reached over 200 participants in more than eight communities.

STEM Junction Symposium

SCS partners with this annual student-run symposium at Fox Chapel Area High School. It has a focus on computational biology.

TechNights

TechNights provides hands-on technology skills and practice for middle school girls through a series of weekly workshops. The on-campus workshops cover such topics as robotics, algorithms, programming, game design, machine learning and more. A graduate leader oversees the workshops and assists other CMU students, who develop individual sessions. Student volunteers help, which allows for one-on-one guidance. Since the advent of COVID-19, program leaders and volunteers have begun developing videos that participants can watch remotely.

Teknowledge

Through Teknowledge, four of five CMU students travel to local schools or community centers (via Uber) and teach Python using the CMU CS Academy curriculum. Their focus is on middle school students, and the program runs for one hour twice a week after school.

Voices Against Violence (VAV) Robotics Initiative

VAV delivers a beginner and intermediate robotics course to summer camp participants. The students also learn elementary programming skills, which they continue to learn throughout the year via in-school and after-school delivery. The program develops digital literacy while providing safe spaces for vulnerable youth during out-of-school time.