CMU work to encourage women in robotics noted by U.S. Education Secretary
Two or three times a month, Mopewa Ogundipe and other Carnegie Mellon University students visit local schools to talk about robotics and computer science.
“Many of the students do not have an accurate idea of computer science. They think it's a guy sitting at a computer and programming. There's much more,” said Ogundipe, a senior from Damascus, Md. Robotics and computer science, Ogundipe and others say, involve design, problem solving and teamwork.
It is a profession that is too heavily dominated by males and needs a better mix, many CMU students say.
The work of Ogundipe and other members of the group, Women at SCS — which stands for School of Computer Science — an organization that includes several male students, impressed U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who visited the university at the end of a five-day bus trip that started in Kansas City, Kan., and took him to several states.
“It is a world-class university. It could be an ivory tower. They are reaching out. They are reaching out to the community,” Duncan said of CMU.
Kenny Joseph, a doctoral computer science student from Buffalo, N.Y., visits primary and secondary schools with Women at SCS.
“With a more diverse group of people building it, you get better technology. If only men are building technology, then you get technology that pretty much just works for men but not for everyone,” Joseph said.
Duncan said he thinks Texas high school student Ahmed Mohamed is exactly the sort of student U.S. universities should want.
On Monday, the Muslim teen brought a clock he'd made to school and was arrested for what police incorrectly said was a hoax bomb. President Obama later invited Mohamed to the White House.
“It was racial profiling run amok. He's a tinkerer, an innovator. That's the kind of student we want in our schools,” Duncan said.
Duncan looked at several CMU technology exhibits and participated in a town hall meeting led by CMU Provost Farnam Jahanian.
The secretary fielded questions about academic testing, national education standards and the role technology will play in the future of education.
Duncan said Americans spend about $8 billion a year on paper textbooks that are out of date within several years. Districts could better spend the money for digital textbooks, which Duncan said could be updated quickly.
In recent years, Duncan said, growth in student achievement at the high school level has been flat, and gaps among ethnic groups have not narrowed enough. The secretary said he favors a more uniform standard of national student assessment.
“There's pushback from the left and right on these issues. Students are competing with students from around the world. We have 50 states and 50 different goal posts,” Duncan said.
While U.S. students are scoring higher on national math assessments than they did two decades ago, they still rank around the middle of the pack in international comparisons, and behind many other advanced nations, according to a study this year by the Pew Research Center.
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or firstname.lastname@example.org.