Hofstra has been awarded a $1.6 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to launch an interdisciplinary program that will introduce hands-on coding and computer modeling to an economically and ethnically diverse group of early high school students.
The program, called the STEM + Computing (STEM+C) Partnership, is a collaboration among five professors from a variety of academic disciplines who will train high school teachers in coding and help them develop a computationally enhanced biology curriculum.
“Our goal is to teach high school students the fundamentals of computer coding (writing programs and applications) in the context of a STEM course,” said Bret Bennington, PhD, professor and chair, Department of Geology, Environment and Sustainability, and principal investigator on the grant. “We believe that having students write applications themselves to model and investigate the concepts in the course will both help them better learn their biology but also teach them a very important skill that they can use in just about any career.”
The other professors working on the project include: Lian Duan, assistant professor of information systems and business analytics in the Frank G. Zarb School of Business; Stavros Valenti, Senior Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs and professor of psychology in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Roberto Joseph, associate professor of teaching, learning and technology in the School of Education; and Krishnan Pillaipakkamnatt, chair and professor of computer science in the Fred DeMatteis School of Engineering and Applied Science.
“We want to reach not just high-achieving students, but all students who take a foundational biology course in high school, including underserved students who may not normally have access to courses where they learn coding,” said Dr. Valenti.
Hofstra’s STEM+C program, which will run for three years, is unique in that it aims to integrate STEM and computational thinking into an existing high school curriculum.
So far, the university’s high school partners include Rockville Centre, Freeport, Bethpage, Massapequa, Roosevelt and Sacred Heart Academy. Beginning in summer 2018, Hofstra faculty will work with 9th and 10th grade teachers from those schools who teach the living environment biology course.
“By integrating computational thinking into the high school biology curriculum, students will not only gain deeper insights into the nature of real-world dynamic biological systems, but also become not merely tool users but tool builders by using a set of concepts, such as abstraction, recursion, and iterations, to process and analyze data, and to create real and virtual artifacts,” said Dr. Duan.