Universities across North America – and even Google – are participating in Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) from December 9-15, 2013. Held annually in recognition of computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper’s birthday (December 9, 1906), this thematic week is dedicated to raising awareness about the computer science field. The University of New Brunswick’s faculty of computer science is targeting elementary and high school students, to show them the exciting possibilities a computer science degree brings.
Computer Science Unplugged
UNB’s faculty of computer science uses CSEdWeek to show grade five students that computer science isn’t only about computers in Computer Science Unplugged (CS Unplugged).
As famous computer scientist Edsger Dijkstra once said, “computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.” UNB’s CS Unplugged program invites grade five students to explore computational thinking, rather than computers themselves, through a set of hands-on activities. Students experience the fun of problem solving by discovering the principles behind binary counting and data encryption.
Why raise awareness?
“Every day technology improves the way we manage health care, banking, education, social interactions,” says Rick Wightman, chair of the faculty of computer science’s recruitment committee.
“There are more ideas to be explored and more projects to be done, but we know there simply aren’t enough people studying computer science for us to accomplish them. To address this, students need to know that the field of computer science holds a bright future for them,” says Wightman.
Apart from the CS Unplugged presentations, the faculty of computer science has a recruitment team traveling all over the Maritime provinces to talk to high school students about computer science and related fields such as information systems and software engineering. They talk with students about computer science, as well as computing careers and opportunities available in the computing field. Many students are pleased to discover that they can combine their interests with computer science.
A shortage in the industry
There is a shortage of computing professionals today. Between 2011 and 2016, Canadian employers will need to hire over 100,000 information and communication technology (ICT) workers according to the New Brunswick Information and Communication Technology Council, Outlook 2011-2016 report. However, only a few tens of thousands of students are projected to be graduating from computer science during this time frame. “It will be difficult to create solutions for many of those problems without the help of computing professionals,” says Wightman.
To get there
The faculty of computer science offers three undergraduate degree programs:
- Bachelor of computer science (BCS)
- Bachelor of information systems (BISys)
- Bachelor of science in software engineering (BScSwE)
This year marks 45 years of growth, success and innovation for UNB’s faculty of computer science, the biggest computing faculty in Atlantic Canada.