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Alice Summer Workshops Inspire High School Teachers and Students

Alice workshop attendees enjoyed a field trip to the global headquarters of Entertainment Arts (EA) in Redwood City
 

For two weeks last summer, the School of Engineering hosted workshops for high school teachers and students to learn the popular Alice programming language—an easy-to-use, engaging tool that opens the world of computing to those who might otherwise be intimidated by the necessity to learn intricate code.

“Alice is 3D, drag and drop programming that is easy to learn and fun to use,” said Daniel Lewis, associate professor in the Department of Computer Engineering, who raised the funds to offer the two week-long resident programs for educators and day camps for students, free of charge. “Often, high school students are turned off by programming; they think it will be tedious and boring. With Alice, you can easily create animation for applications such as gaming or story-telling. It is an exciting, free software tool that provides an enjoyable introductory experience to programming that can lead to a real passion for creating Web-based environments.”

By helping both the teachers and students become confident and proficient with this tool, Dr. Lewis believes there is a better chance of drawing students into computing majors when it is time for college. “These workshops pull in those who don’t consider themselves ‘computer geeks,’” he said.

The program, in its second year of operation, received rave reviews by students and educators, alike. One teacher wrote, “I was able to improve my skills as well as develop some new and exciting activities for my students. I have recruitment of nontraditional students to STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] careers as one of my professional goals. I believe Alice is an important instructional tool to help me attract those students who would otherwise never consider STEM careers—and I can attract those students when they are still eighth or ninth graders. Now they can make better educational choices earlier in their careers. It is a huge gift to have Alice (the software), all the instructional materials, and this workshop. Thank you! There is no way my school or district could have paid for any of this.”