computer science Tag

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

Jonah Firestone
Firestone

RICHLAND, Wash. – WSU Tri-Cities is developing a teacher endorsement program in computer science that has attracted a $49,000 grant from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and a matching contribution from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Currently, there is no teaching endorsement program at any universities in Washington state for computer science, which makes program development in the subject increasingly important in today’s advancing technological society, said Jonah Firestone, WSU Tri-Cities assistant professor of teaching and learning and campus lead on the grant.

“The state of Washington has pushed to have at least one computer science teacher at every school who has an endorsement in the subject,” Firestone said. “Up until now, it was usually a math or science teacher who also had an interest in computing that would serve that role. But we need to take that further and offer an endorsement in the subject in order to best prepare our teachers.”

The first phase of the grant funds, he said, will fund the development and offering of professional development workshops with teachers from five districts that include Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, Prosser and Othello. The workshops, which currently are being developed by WSU Tri-Cities and PNNL and will be taught by PNNL computer scientists this spring, will provide training on computer science concepts and skills and for designing computer science curriculum.

The funds will also go toward stipends for educators who participate.

Firestone said there will be a combination of teacher recruitment for the program and recommendations from districts for current instructors who would immediately qualify for the program based on their roles in schools.

“We’re looking at teachers who are already in technology classes, plus we’re working with our contacts at the local science, technology, engineering and mathematics schools to inquire about teachers who would qualify and be interested,” he said.

Morrison Judy
Morrison

The second phase of the grant entails the analysis of data collected over the course of the workshops, which will then be used for the development of a computer science certificate program for educators. Firestone and Judy Morrison, associate professor of teaching and learning, will co-lead the project. Together they will analyze the workshops and develop the certificate program.

Firestone said the certificate program will combine education courses with computer science courses.

“Classes on the content are not enough,” Firestone said. “We have to have classes on how to teach this material to the kids.”

WSU Tri-Cities is the only university in the state selected for the grant program. Twenty-four other districts, schools and nonprofits also were selected for the program, who will use the funds to train teachers, provide and upgrade technology, and expand access to girls, students from underrepresented populations and communities who have historically been underserved. The grants awarded to higher education institutions across the state total nearly $1 million.

“We are very grateful to OSPI for presenting this opportunity and to PNNL for providing the in-kind matching funds that will go toward the program and their time in working with us on this endeavor,” Firestone said. “This grant is allowing us to get this program started and off the ground. This is stage one of a multistage process.”

 

Contacts:

For Emmanuel “Manny” Bonilla, Veterans Day holds a special significance.

The son of undocumented immigrant parents, and formerly an undocumented individual himself, he joined the United States Air Force at 27 as a means to improve life for himself and his family.

manny-bonilla-3“I signed up at 27 for two reasons: one, I was an illegal immigrant and I wanted to get citizenship, and one of my other dreams was to use it as a way to finish college,” he said.

The military would help him accomplish both. Bonilla is now a U.S. citizen. He is also currently pursuing his dream major of computer science at Washington State University Tri-Cities. Now, he and his fellow veterans at WSU Tri-Cities are giving back to the veteran community through a tribute at the university, as well as a drive that will send donated items to military members overseas.

The WSU Tri-Cities Veterans Center held a ribbon event his week, where campus and community members were invited to write the name of loved ones that served in the military on a ribbon, which were then hung and displayed throughout the week on the Hero Tree near the entrance to the East Building on campus. The group is also holding a package drive where they are taking donations of toiletries, food items, games and miscellaneous items that will be packed and sent to active duty servicemen overseas as part of Operation Thank You.

“The purpose of Veterans Day is to honor all of our past and current soldiers, airmen, sailors and other current and 30727073692_48a5985c50_zformer members of our branches,” he said. “One of the things we are trying to do is show respect to all of our servicemen who are currently out there right now or who have already served. We noticed a lot of students came out, grandparents who served, friends of people who are currently out there right now. It means a lot for us to honor them.”

Bonilla said the university holds veteran students in high regard, and truly supports its students’ transition back to civilian life by preparing them for the next stages in their career.

“I don’t think there is a school that is more accepting and more supportive of its veterans,” he said. “I love this school and it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Bonilla’s story

Bonilla enlisted in the U.S. Air Force more than five years ago and served in two tours overseas at seven months each: one in Oman and one in the United Arab Emirates.

“The fun parts were honor guard, I got to see the world and I also got to meet lots of outstanding individuals in the military,” he said.

manny-bonilla-2The tours overseas and training regimens that kept him away from his family throughout the years, however, were what made him consider a career change. Growing up in the Tri-Cities, Bonilla said he always saw WSU Tri-Cities as a natural fit, especially for veterans. He also feels comfortable serving in the U.S. Air Force Reserves while working on a full-course load at WSU Tri-Cities because of the support system in place.

“It is like hitting the brakes in a car going 60 miles an hour,” he said of transitioning from military life to civilian life. “It is a complete shock. A lot of us have a lot of problems with that. You are so used to structure. Every day, you know what you’re going to do. You wake up early every morning. Once I got to school at WSU, it really helped with the transition.”

Bonilla said the university, from the teachers to the administration, are always willing to work with his schedule in the reserves and make accommodations for his classwork.manny-bonilla

“They are always willing to work with me, especially when I have to go the Air Force base for training and other requirements for the reserves,” he said. “Some topics are hard to talk about for us veterans and they understand.”

“TRIO student support services at WSU Tri-Cities was also a crucial tool for me,” he said. “From the tutoring to the individual support they provide, they were so valuable. It’s been a great environment for veterans.”

Looking toward the future

Bonilla said he reaps the benefits of the challenging coursework at WSU Tri-Cities with industry connections, especially in his specific degree field of computer science.

“I have been a geek since I was born,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve always liked computers and electronics. So that was naturally what I saw myself drawn to as a future career option.”30727074532_4c8be159ee_z

Bonilla said growing up with all of his family members working in the field, they didn’t have money to purchase new electronics, so he learned to fix broken pieces of equipment for his and his family’s use. He said he feels privileged to now turn his past into a forward-thinking career at a university with so many industry connections.

“My computer science courses here at WSU are definitely hands-on,” he said. “Our professors here work with all of their students to start slowly and then we build on what we learn through each course and each lesson. That certainly doesn’t mean it is easy, but I like the challenge. That coursework then applies directly into internships, which are held in plenty in the Tri-Cities.”

Bonilla is working to secure a computer science internship at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. After graduation, he said he would love to eventually work for Microsoft as a computer programmer.

“That’s the dream,” he said. “I feel honored that I got the chance to serve my country and had the privilege of putting on the uniform and completing some of the things that my brothers and I did. Now, I’m lucky enough to pursue a different dream. Some of our friends didn’t make it, that is all the more reason why what I am doing is so important. I have to take advantage of these opportunities because some of my brothers don’t have that luxury.”

WSU Tri-Cities holds the designation of “Veteran Supportive Campus.” The designation is declared by the Washington State Department of Veteran Affairs based on the university’s ability to meet individual veteran needs, its supply of potential benefits for veterans and its assistance in helping veterans obtain internal and external benefits and care.

For more information on resources available to veterans or to see how you can donate for the Operation Thank You drive at WSU Tri-Cities, visit https://tricities.wsu.edu/veterans/ or contact the WSU Tri-Cities Veterans Center at 509-372-7364.

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – A self-driving fuel-cell car, a prosthetic arm and a solar-powered hot water heater are among the 14 projects that will be showcased during the 2016 Washington State University Tri-Cities Engineering and Computer Science Senior Design Expo at 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 26, in the West Atrium.

Students will present real-world projects they spent the school year researching, designing and developing. Members of the community are invited to attend give their feedback to the students.

“Each of these projects began as an idea enriched by considerable enthusiasm and compelling vision,” said Joseph Iannelli, WSU Tri-Cities executive director of engineering and computer science. “Through teamwork, diligence and expert mentorship, these students successfully completed innovative projects that are fully anticipated to make a real-world impact soon.”

Other projects include a pedestrian bridge for Badger Mountain Trail, design for a new engineering building, cloud-based decision support and data integration for precision agriculture and an optimized TiLite wheelchair.

 

Contacts:
Joseph Iannelli, WSU Tri-Cities engineering and computer science, 509-372-7420,joseph.iannelli@tricity.wsu.edu
Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333,maegan.murray@tricity.wsu.edu