Vasserman Using NSF Grant to Broaden Rural Access to Computing Education in Kansas

Manhattan, KS— Eugene Vasserman, associate professor in the computer science department at Kansas State University, has received a National Science Foundation grant to broaden rural access to computing education across the state of Kansas.

Vasserman will lead the project while colleagues Nathan Bean, teaching assistant professor, Joshua Weese, teaching assistant professor and Russell Feldhausen, instructor, all in computer science in the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering, will assist as co-principal investigators.

The two-year, nearly $300,000 project, “BPC-DP: Broadening Participation of Underrepresented Groups Through the Computational Core Initiative,” will expand the department’s Computational Core Initiative to include as many as 20 high schools throughout the state while identifying and addressing immediate barriers faced by rural students who wish to study computer science.

“The curriculum is designed to be remotely accessible, culturally relevant and flexible, addressing the unique challenges faced by students with varied and intersecting identities,” Vasserman said. “The project will also seek to paint a broader picture of how students, teachers and parents in rural Kansas perceive computer science.”

Vasserman, who also directs the Center for Information and Systems Assurance at K-State, said another goal of the project is to better understand how the computer science department can best serve rural students.

“Beyond broadening access to computing-related classes, the project will increase our understanding of how rural students engage with computer science and what strategies may attract more to the discipline,” he said. “We will do this by observing the effects of sharing information about local computer science career pathways, the impact of offering one or more computer science courses in high schools, changes in students’ attitudes toward learning computer science and the degree to which students’ social identities influence their interest in computer-related careers.”