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UC Riverside summer coding camp for high school students goes virtual

The free camp, led by the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, teaches local high school students coding skills

The University of California, Riverside’s Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering (BCOE) hosted its fourth annual CS4ALL CODE CAMP, a free intensive program that teaches high school students computer coding skills and introduces them to career possibilities in computer science. UCR computer science experts, lecturer Kelley Downey and assistant professor Mariam Salloum, created the camp to encourage women and underrepresented minorities to gain interest in these computing careers. 

The program addresses a unique challenge in the computing workforce, which is one of the highest paying and fastest growing careers in the United States. These occupations are projected to add more than 500,000 new jobs by 2028, yet there is a shortage of K-12 computer science education. 

“Many summer camps were cancelled due to the COVID-19 situation, but we felt it was important to offer our CS4ALL CODE CAMP in a virtual format,” said program leader Salloum. “We want to ensure that students continue to have access to computer science education opportunities and build those fundamental skills to lay the groundwork for future success.” 

Instead of a one-week program, camp took place over three weeks to provide more flexibility for students. Students learn the fundamentals of writing code and work with applications like Space Invaders, Brick Breaker and Memory Game, extending the basic version of the app and making it their own. Students also participate in interactive labs and hone their practical computer skills and problem-solving skills.  

Salloum noted that a big challenge this year was bringing campus life to students. Salloum collaborated with current computer science students and others who could spark that engineering inspiration in these young minds and give them a glimpse into university life. 

Through a panel series, students were able to network and ask questions of UCR undergraduate students, graduate students and alumni. Topics included an introduction to undergraduate research, working in industry, getting involved in university activities, and more.  

Members of Women in Computing (WINC) helped organize the panels.
Members of Women in Computing (WINC) helped organize the panels.

 

“It was important to us to ensure that the Code Camp was not just about ‘how to program,’” said Salloum, “but helped students see the career paths in computing and how they can break into this exciting and lucrative field.” 

Undergraduate students Paris Hom and Megan McDaniel, outreach/K-12 chairs of UCR student organization Women in Computing (WINC), organized the panels. Chad Davis, a Ph.D. student and NICE: NRT Integrated Computational Entomology Fellow, led the lab and office hours. Steve Kong, coordinator for Digital Learning Initiatives at the Riverside Unified School District, shared ways students can jumpstart their computing education in high school. 

More than 80 high school students from neighboring school districts in the Inland Empire attended. 

The program was funded in part by a $10,000 grant from Best Buy Foundation. 

To learn more about the CS4ALL CODE CAMP, visit the program’s website