Drexel University Computing Academy Celebrates 5th Year

This summer, 32 high school sophomores and juniors will arrive at Drexel’s main campus, move their belongings into Towers Hall, and begin an intense five weeks of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-focused learning and fun as part of the Drexel University Computing Academy (DUCA). The program, running from June 22 to July 25, celebrates its fifth year in existence and its first year residing in the new College of Computing & Informatics (CCI).

The program’s courses—taught by CCI and the College of Engineering faculty—encourage interdisciplinary learning across multiple domains, including information technology, game design and development, computer networking and security, social media, and digital arts and media.

With the help of DUCA’s residential life staff, students gain critical thinking and leadership skills through hands-on activities and group projects, make new friends during game nights and barbeques, and explore all that Philadelphia has to offer through field trips to area historical sites such as the Constitution Center.  

“Each year's DUCA staff is a talented, diverse group of people who are pleasure to work with, but I'm particularly excited about this year's staff because ten out of eleven of us are former DUCA students. That means this year's staff has a special passion for the program, and they're all looking forward to recreating the great experiences they had as students,” said Ann Trachte, DUCA residential life director and alumna.

Most of all, DUCA addresses the national demand for STEM education. In November 2009, the White House administration moved STEM education into the national spotlight by launching the “Educate to Innovate” initiative—a decade-long campaign to bolster resources for science and math teachers, while encouraging and inspiring American students to achieve in STEM fields. According to US2020, an organization founded by tech corporations responding to the White House’s STEM education challenge, there will be 1.2 million U.S. job openings in STEM fields by 2018. With only 16 percent of American high school seniors being proficient in mathematics and interested in a STEM career, a large national shortfall is predicted for professionals able to enter these fields.

This year, DUCA furthered its commitment to STEM education by offering its first student scholarship through the Eugene and Meher Garfield DUCA Scholars Endowed Fund. Established in June 2013 by University supporters Meher and Eugene Garfield, PhD (HD ’04), the scholarship funds one economically underserved high school student per year from Philadelphia, Delaware Valley, or southern New Jersey areas to attend DUCA.

While gaining a glimpse of college life, DUCA students can explore new topics and develop and hone their technical skills in a supportive environment. “DUCA attracts a diverse group of students from all over the U.S., some of which have limited or no prior computing knowledge,” said DUCA executive director Brenda Sheridan, EdD. “Despite varying levels of skill, students come away from DUCA having a better sense of what they would like to study in college, or even where they’d like to study.”

Out of the 50 students that graduated from DUCA in 2012, 91% of high school seniors applied to Drexel with a 28% yield. Students who successfully complete DUCA and subsequently enroll at Drexel University are also eligible to receive a $3,000 renewable scholarship to apply to their studies at Drexel. For more information about the program, please visit www.ducomputingacademy.org.


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