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Tuskegee's Department of Computer Science receives NSF grant to educate minority high school students in IT and cyber security

October 11, 2021

Contact: Kawana McGough, Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing

Dr. Jay Bhuyan

Tuskegee University's computer science department has been awarded a $999,995 grant to train local high school students in information technology and cyber security. Over the next four years, the grant sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Developing and Testing Innovations (DTI) program will provide 40 high school rising sophomores and juniors and ten teachers in the Alabama Black Belt region with technology and cybersecurity experience through the development of mobile-enabled applications. 

Professor Dr. Jay Bhuyan is the principal investigator. Drs. Kai Koong, Fan Wu, Cassandra Thomas, and Li Jiang are co-principal investigators on the collaborative project within the Department of Computer Science.  

"Cybersecurity is the current trend in computer science. This field applies to inter-disciplinary students. While this field is most current, it lacks diversity," Bhuyan said. "Our project is aimed at generating interest in minority high-school students to pursue this field. Currently, Tuskegee University offers several courses in cybersecurity through an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree in cybersecurity."

While job growth in STEM fields, specifically in information technology and cybersecurity, has consistently increased, diversity in these workforce fields has not grown at a comparable pace. Under the grant, the proposed project will provide, in a group setting, hands-on training in basic IT concepts through a one-month training program (four-week summer academy) hosted at Tuskegee University, followed by one-semester in-school training on a project of their choice. 

"There is a need to engage minority students in these areas early in their careers," explained Bhuyan. "The program will offer far-reaching technological experiences through the exciting explorations of secured mobile application development under a Project-Based Learning (PBL) framework," Bhuyan added.

Participating students will learn to develop mobile applications using MIT APP Inventor, which focuses on developing logical thinking skills, rather than the details of learning a traditional programming language, in a fun-filled way. Students will also learn how their application interacts securely with the Internet.

"The project's strategy and design will be used to advance the efforts of increasing minority high school students' motivations and capacities to pursue STEM careers," noted Bhuyan. 

The project's work integrates hands-on training in basic information and information technology security concepts. Furthermore, the grant will be used to examine the students' knowledge, interest, and attitudes towards STEM-related careers. The project co-funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts, and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers. This project is also jointly co-funded by the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

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