Exposing rural African-American students to computer science as a career choice using robots

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Title

2015 Research in Equity and Sustained Participation in Engineering, Computing, and Technology (RESPECT)

Publication Date


Date Added



Increasing minority representation in the field of Computer Science has been a focal point of concern. Outreach activities, after-school programs, and summer camps are common efforts that have been employed in an attempt to reverse this trend of underrepresentation in the field. There have also been instances in which these efforts were found to be successful [1, 2, 3, 4]. However, these efforts appear to occur more often in urban areas of the United States. Meanwhile, there are rural areas that contain a substantial representation of minorities, in particular African-Americans. In states like Alabama and Mississippi, for instance, 51.4% and 72.4% of its residents respectively live in rural areas [5]. Yet, both states also possess a denser population of African-Americans as residents than the national average [6]. Employing efforts of a similar prevalence seen within urban areas towards rural areas could further assist the cause of alleviating minority underrepresentation in computer science. This poster details an outreach effort that was conducted on a group of African-American juniors at a rural high school (named Aliceville High School) in Pickens County, Alabama. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Pickens County is composed of ∼20,000 residents in which ~41% are African-American [6]. Furthermore, the student representation at Aliceville High School is predominantly African-American. Using an interactive robotic environment called PREOP (Providing Robotic Experiences through Object-based Programming), the objective was to expose these students to robotic programming with the intent of encouraging and engaging them to the idea of viewing computer science as a possible career choice. Upon the completion of this outreach, it was found that nearly half of the students exhibited some level of interest for pursuing computer science as a potential career choice.






Technology, Economic Advancement


Computer Sciences