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$300,000 grant sparks reboot of Saint Vincent computer science efforts


Westmoreland County is about to become more computer science -friendly.

Saint Vincent College received about $ 317,000 in state grant money to build a computer science ecosystem in the county.

Over the next few months, Unity college will come up with a plan to make computer science more accessible for students and faculty. Even if the ecosystem is based in Westmoreland County, it will also affect the counties of Fayette and Somerset and the Philadelphia area.

Brother Norman Hipps, professor of mathematics at Saint Vincent, envisioned a system that would prepare students for work and higher education. Whether students choose to pursue a career related to computer science or not, the field will benefit them, he said.

“It has a huge value in simply helping young people think and solve problems with the kind of logic that is sadly not as strong as I think it should be in a lot of schools,” he said. Hipps said.

The research supports Hipps ’claim. According to several studies, computer science education increases college enrollment, problem -solving skills and job potential.

Hipps hopes to build connections and partnerships between the school districts, Saint Vincent College, Computer Science Academy at Carnegie Mellon, Westmoreland Intermediate Unit, Westmoreland-Fayette Workforce Investment Board and Economic Growth Connection.

There are three components, he said.

First, it expands access and opportunities through targeted outreach. This can be achieved, in part, by sponsoring a computer science camp for middle school girls. During camp, women will build worlds and tell stories through programming.

“Women are less represented in the computer field, and we think it’s important to start (in the field) young,” Hipps said.

Saint Vincent will also continue to host a math, science and technology camp for middle schools from the Philly area, and the college will also begin offering the camp to high schools, as well.

The second part focuses on teachers. Currently, there are limited collaboration opportunities for computer science teachers from different school districts, Hipps said.

Meeting dates are planned for the summer and Saturday for local faculty trained at Carnegie Mellon Computer Science Academy. Carnegie Mellon trainees will be invited to collaborate.

Finally, there is a double enrollment cybersecurity class available to high school or Saint Vincent students.

Wendy Lint, a computer science teacher at Greater Latrobe Senior High School, envisions an opportunity to give Westmoreland students a “one” if they pursue any profession.

“I can’t think of a college major that wouldn’t benefit kids taking a basic programming class,” he said.

Plans for the project have been underway since last summer. In June, the office of Gov. Tom Wolf that Saint Vincent is one of 42 educational institutions to receive a total of $ 20 million in PAsmart Advancing Grants for STEM and computer science programs.

Maddie Aiken is a staff writer at Tribune-Review. You can contact Maddie by email at maiken@triblive.com or via Twitter .





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