NSF extends program encouraging African-Americans to pursue careers in robotics, computer science

December 09, 2010

PITTSBURGH--The National Science Foundation (NSF) has extended its support for an alliance of nine major research universities, including Carnegie Mellon University, and 19 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that encourages African American students to pursue graduate training and research careers in robotics and computer science.

The NSF's two-year, $1.5 million extension award will enable the Advancing Robotics Technology for Societal Impact (ARTSI) Alliance to develop additional curricula and outreach activities, as well as continue a summer research program for undergraduates.

"The U.S. government is emphasizing the importance of STEM education -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- for maintaining competitiveness in a high-tech world," said David S. Touretzky, research professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon and one of the alliance's founders. "Our country must draw upon its entire talent pool to develop the next generation of researchers and educators."

Other participating Carnegie Mellon faculty are Illah Nourbakhsh, associate professor of robotics, and Sara Kiesler, professor of computer science and human-computer interaction.

The ARTSI Alliance, http://artsialliance.org/, was formed in 2007 with $2 million in NSF support to increase the number of African Americans among computer and information scientists. African Americans make up 13.5 percent of the U.S. population, but comprise only about 5 percent of U.S. computer and information scientists.

In its first three years of operation, ARTSI has served more than 300 undergraduates, provided mentoring and technical assistance to 23 HBCU faculty who established robotics courses and laboratories, and delivered more than 60 robots to HBCUs for teaching and research. It has funded 50 summer internship opportunities for HBCU students to work in labs at major research universities, and held three faculty summer workshops. More than 150 students are expected to attend the next annual ARTSI Student Research Conference, March 17-19, at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.

ARTSI also launched robotics-based outreach activities to attract more middle and high school students to college-level computer science programs.

Chutima Boonthum-Denecke, assistant professor of computer science at Hampton University, is principal investigator for the ARTSI program, with Carnegie Mellon's Touretzky and Elva J. Jones, chairperson of the Computer Science Department at Winston-Salem State University, serving as lead co-principal investigators.
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ARTSI is part of the NSF's Broadening Participation in Computing Program, which seeks to increase the number of women and minority students who pursue advanced training in computer science. The alliance also has received corporate support from Motorola, Google, Intel, Seagate Technology, Apple, Boeing and iRobot.

Follow the School of Computer Science on Twitter @SCSatCMU.

About Carnegie Mellon University: Carnegie Mellon (www.cmu.edu) is a private, internationally ranked research university with programs in areas ranging from science, technology and business, to public policy, the humanities and the arts. More than 11,000 students in the university's seven schools and colleges benefit from a small student-to-faculty ratio and an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. A global university, Carnegie Mellon's main campus in the United States is in Pittsburgh, Pa. It has campuses in California's Silicon Valley and Qatar, and programs in Asia, Australia, Europe and Mexico. The university is in the midst of a $1 billion fundraising campaign, titled "Inspire Innovation: The Campaign for Carnegie Mellon University," which aims to build its endowment, support faculty, students and innovative research, and enhance the physical campus with equipment and facility improvements.

Carnegie Mellon University

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