$300,000 grant awarded to computer science education

Two associate professors and an assistant professor in the UNI computer science education department—Sarah Diesburg, Philip East and Ben Schafer—recently received news that their grant proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) was approved for funding. The $300,000 grant is the biggest NSF award the department has ever received.

Last year, the three colleagues were looking at ways they could improve the curriculum efforts for computer science teachers.

National Science Foundation logo
The National Science Foundation (NSF) grant of $300,000 to UNI's computer science department is the biggest NSF award the department has ever received.

“We were already thinking about responding to the upcoming need for professional development in CS [computer science] for teachers,” noted East. “Completing the grant application would provide a means for solidifying our plans and, if funded, provide quality PD [professional development] for Iowa teachers at a low cost.”

The grant money will now go towards that professional development for computer science teachers, including teacher tuition and research costs.

East added, “It will provide extra resources for the development of the curriculum; it is difficult to develop a course while teaching it. Also, multiple people will be involved in the development and initial offerings of courses—the multiple perspectives will produce a better curriculum.  Finally, the grant money will provide people and expertise to evaluate and revise the courses to make them even better.”

Sarah Diesburg is excited for the opportunity that the grant gives women and minorities in the computer science field. “Through this funding, we can teach practices that have been researched and shown to be effective to support diversity.”

The professors currently envision providing five courses for teachers in the area that will “grow their knowledge and understanding of computer science,” stated Schafer.

UNI undergraduates can take advantage of the courses the grant will be funding as well.

“We see these courses as forming the core of a set of courses that would lead to a teaching endorsement in computer science.  Thus, this program would serve UNI students much as the mathematics education, science education, social studies education programs, etc. currently do,” East said.