Icon for: Jakita Thomas


Spelman College

Supporting Computational Algorithmic Thinking

NSF Awards: 1150098

2015 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 6-8

Supporting Computational Algorithmic Thinking (SCAT) is a longitudinal between-subjects research project exploring how African-American middle-school girls develop computational algorithmic thinking (SCAT) capabilities over time in the context of game design. SCAT is also a free enrichment program designed to expose middle school girls to game design. The goals are: 1) to explore the development of computational algorithmic thinking over three years in African-American middle-school girls as they engage in iterative game design, and 2) to increase the awareness of participants to the broad applicability of computational algorithmic thinking across a number of industries and career paths. Spanning three years, participants, called SCAT Scholars, develop CAT capabilities as they design more and more complex games. SCAT Scholars begin the program the summer prior to their 6th grade year and continue through their 8th grade year. They engage in 3 types of activities each year: 1) a two-week intensive game design summer camp; 2) twelve technical workshops where Scholars implement the games they have designed using visual and programming languages (e.g., SCRATCH, GameMaker, GameSalad) in preparation for submission to national game design competitions (e.g., National STEM Video Game Challenge); and 3) field trips where Scholars learn about applications of CAT in different industries and careers.

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Discussion from the 2015 Teaching & Learning Video Showcase (7 posts)
  • Icon for: Elizabeth Hassrick

    Elizabeth Hassrick

    Research Scientist
    May 11, 2015 | 12:33 p.m.

    This an exciting project, focusing on how African American girls learn to transition from being game players to becoming game designers. The photos of the girls designing games was inspiring (loved the dioramas!!). I appreciated listening to the parents talk about why they wanted their daughter in the program and details about the program. The nurturing aspect of the mentorship provided in the program was well communicated in the video. It would be useful to learn more about how the curriculum was design and how student learning was evaluated.

  • Barbara Berns

    May 12, 2015 | 12:01 p.m.

    What an engaging program, and you picked perfect spokeswomen! I wished I was still in middle school. I am wondering what you are thinking about resaearching the impact as the program gets more stable. Also, are there any plans for adapting this for other sites?

  • Barbara Fasse

    May 12, 2015 | 04:34 p.m.

    Awesome program, Jakita! I am very interested in learning to what extent SCAT influences and empowers the future decisions and trajectory of the participants. I hope you will follow them over time— a long time!

  • Icon for: May Jadallah

    May Jadallah

    Assistant Professor
    May 12, 2015 | 05:31 p.m.

    This is absolutely a great idea! Following this group of girls and examining the long term impact of the program on their motivation, achievement, interest in STEM, and eventually the careers they chose to engage in. A very interesting project.

  • Icon for: Avron Barr

    Avron Barr

    May 13, 2015 | 01:35 a.m.

    Great program. Do all the girls that enter the program do well? Do you have plans to scale up the program for more kids?

  • Icon for: Lisa Hogan

    Lisa Hogan

    Technology Integrator
    May 13, 2015 | 07:33 p.m.

    I was impressed with the degree of empowerment, pride, and success these young women possessed as they were interviewed! What challenges did these young women face as they began their adventures in game development? Were all of these students “gamers,” before they began this program? Do you feel that students who participate in the program need to be “gamers” to be successful. I am curious to know the impact of the program on these young women as they advance through high school.

  • Icon for: Deborah Kariuki

    Deborah Kariuki

    Computer Science Teacher
    May 15, 2015 | 10:32 p.m.

    Thanks for this wonderful study. As a computer science teacher I was intrigued as to how you had the girls create model of what they are going to program, I will certainly in cooperate this into my future teaching, this is a very cool idea and I had not thought of that as I usually have the students demonstrate by using flow charts. Also as a computer science teacher I have not been able to attract many Latino and African America girls into my high school classes, but I see you are starting at middle school. This is an excellent idea to get the interest cultivate early so that they have the opportunity to make that choice and maybe continue in this line of education later on in life.

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