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Underserved Students Learn Technical, Entrepreneurship Skills in New Summer Program

By Jessica Sinn

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image of studentsThe Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC)—in collaboration with the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium (IE) is piloting the first Verizon Innovative Learning Summer Entrepreneurship Experience on campus this summer, June 26 through July 22.

The program, launching with 25 students from around the country over the course of three and a half weeks, is an immersive, hands-on camp designed to expose underserved and underrepresented rising sophomores and juniors in high school to skills and careers in technical fields and innovation.

With two curriculum tracks – technical and entrepreneurial – the program aims to foster critical thinking and computation skills that will allow students to meet the demands of the 21st century workforce.

The entrepreneurship component is led by UT professor and researcher, Scott Evans and Thomas Darwin, director of the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Pre-Graduate School Internship.

“To build the next generation of innovators, we have an obligation to engage students in STEM skills and careers,” says Justina Nixon-Saintil, director of education programs at Verizon. “We’re excited to launch this unique program at TACC so they can bring their expertise and resources to students who might otherwise not have access to this technology.”

The technical curriculum, designed by Joon-Yee Chuah, a senior program coordinator in TACC’s Education and Outreach group, will teach students web development and coding using Bootstrap, JavaScript, and representational state transfer application program interfaces (REST APIs).

Thomas Darwin, director of the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Pre-Graduate School Internship, was inspired by Austin’s healthy culture and numerous fitness entrepreneurs. Students will be provided FitBit activity trackers, and will then work to develop a product that stores FitBit’s data in the cloud, culminating with a mock product pitch using skills learned throughout the program.

“These students have very limited resources when it comes to applying for college, so they’re already many steps behind compared to the student that has participated in even one summer program,” said Rosalia Gomez, TACC’s Education and Outreach manager. “Our goal is to prepare students for college and beyond by giving them an opportunity to explore technology they might not have access to at their schools, and to inspire them to understand the importance of technology in any career of the future.”

For students, the program will also provide a collegiate experience, allowing them the opportunity to attend classes and meet guest speakers who are minorities currently working in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.