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Grant to unlock high-tech creativity in youths

02-02-2011

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The Sacramento State/UC Davis Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) program will be able to help even more educationally disadvantaged students following the award of a $740,489 grant from the National Science Foundation.

The grant, coordinated by MESA, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, and the College of Education, will be parceled out over three years; $226,100 this year, $288,675 in 2012, and $225,714 in 2013. It was written and submitted by Sacramento State Professors V. Scott Gordon and Kimberly Gordon-Biddle, and MESA Center Director Jean Crowder.

Based in Sacramento State’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, MESA exposes elementary, middle and high school students to possible careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by taking them on field trips, staging academic competitions and providing support with enrollment and college entrance exams and developing rigorous STEM curriculum to better position students to succeed in college.

The grant project, “Strategies: Game Design with Mentoring for Computer Science and Math Achievement for Educationally Disadvantaged Students,” will teach MESA students to design and develop computer games that teach math concepts to elementary school students.

Students will design a math-based computer game that will be tested at local middle schools. After they’ve provided their input, a final design will be created that will be used by first- and second-graders to improve their interest in and understanding of math.

Meanwhile, the young designers also learn more about mathematics, computer science and physics, and Sacramento State computer science students will serve as their mentors.

“The program is aimed squarely at motivating underserved K-12 students with an innovative curriculum that uses graphics, games, mentoring, parental involvement and a socially-engaging framework,” says Gordon.

“This award allows us to reach out to underrepresented populations and show them that a career in computer science will yield tremendous rewards,” says Emir Jose Macari, dean of Sacramento State’s College of Engineering and Computer Science.

“These students will be afforded the opportunity to make a connection between the curriculum and an integral part of their lives – mathematics and computer games – and discover they possess the skills to prepare for a college education and gainful employment in computer science,” says Crowder.

Gordon-Biddle believes the program could have influence well beyond Sacramento State and Northern California. “If this project is implemented correctly and with care, we can become a national model,” she says.

Rep. Doris Matsui, co-chair of the Congressional High-Tech Caucus, lauds the grant award for how it will help MESA continue to educate disadvantaged students. “In the increasingly global economy, it is critical to our economic vitality that we create the next generation of entrepreneurs by improving science, math, technology and engineering education at all levels,” she says.

The first cohort of 40 students will be from a high school, middle school and elementary school in the Twin Rivers Unified School District followed by a cohort from the Sacramento City Unified School District.

For more information on the MESA Program, visit www.csus.edu/mesa/ or call (916) 278-4575. For media assistance, call Sacramento State’s Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.