Puerto Rico Holds First CS for All Symposium

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    On September 22, 2016 ECEP Alliance leaders in Puerto Rico, in collaboration with and sponsored by the Puerto Rico Information Technology Cluster, held the first Computer Science (CS) for All Puerto Rico Symposium. Building on the CS for All vision of creating opportunity and access to computing education for all students, the event organizers invited guests from K-12, higher education, government, industry and the community.

    The symposium, based on the hackathon model that is popular in the CS and IT community, gathered more than 50 leaders for this one-day event at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan. While the symposium had an overarching goal of creating the Puerto Rico Computer Science Task Force, the leaders instructed participants to outline problems to be solved and build teams to create potential solutions to the problems identified.

    The symposium was launched with presentations from local and national leaders in CS education, setting the stage for building problem statements designed by symposium participants. Jan Cuny, program officer for the Computer and Information Science Education Broadening Participation in Computing program at the National Science Foundation shared the history of CS education initiatives at the state and national level, creating a connection between the CS work in Puerto Rico and broadening participation in CS education work occurring nationally.

    “I heard over and over from people who participated in the summit that they were very impressed with the mentors that we brought for the event,” said Dr. Patricia Ordóñez, assistant professor of CS at University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras. 

    ECEP leaders in Puerto Rico, Dr. Joseph Carroll-Miranda, education faculty at the University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras and Dr. Patricia Ordóñez, assistant professor of CS at University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras, led presentations that connected the audience to the needs that drive CS for All work. Dr. Ordóñez shared her personal journey of being a women pushing through barriers to ultimately receive her Ph.D. in CS from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Dr. Carroll-Miranda spoke about computational thinking and the inclusion of CS in K-12 education.   

    After breaking into small groups focused on audience-led problem statements that ranged from how to engage more girls in CS and the obstacles that stand in their way, to funding opportunities, to curriculum and government support of CS education, groups outlined their problems and began building solutions. While the problem statements were diverse, the strategic solutions that each group arrived at were almost identical. It is clear that there is a groundswell of interest in the CS for All movement and a heightened commitment to moving toward deeper engagement from all constituencies represented.

    “We are very grateful to belong to ECEP and for the motivation and direction we are getting from their experiences to bring Puerto Rico up to date to the current state of CS Education of the other ECEP states,” Dr. Ordóñez shared.

    At the end of the event there was clarity in mission, goals and vision for the CS for All initiative in Puerto Rico and an outline for a year-long strategic plan.