Broadening Participation in Computing

Work in makerspaces or with electronic textiles, microcontrollers, and many other activities constitute what we think of as physical computing. In a range of projects, we have encouraged students to work with physical computing to build their interest in computing and enhance computer science students creativity. We have found that the visibility of physical computing encourages students to reflect on their work and their learning in ways that screen-based computing does not.  

As part of a National Science Foundation STEM+C award, we created Beats Empire. This open sandbox game provided formative feedback to teachers regarding student understanding of the CS constructs of data science. In this game, players manage a music studio by querying data on listener purchases, interests, and trends to decide about artists to sign and songs to record. 


Informal learning is one of the strongest predictors of entering into science and technology fields. However, we have found that families that are low-income or from minoritized groups have difficulty navigating the data that provide informal computer science learning. In a series of studies, we examed differences in using information technology to improve their children's education among a wide range of U.S. parents. We found that the ways that data about learning resources are accessed, presented, and trusted varied across groups and suggest different design approaches to providing data to different groups. 

Over the past 20 years, I have created learning experiences intentionally designed for groups underrepresented in computing. What we have learned has implications for computing education and access to learning resources more generally.