ThoughSTEM studentThoughtSTEM, a company founded to introduce and teach computer programming to students ages 8-18, is connecting with UC San Diego CREATE to offer a weekly workshop to students at Gompers Preparatory Academy (GPA), a UC San Diego partnership school. The brainchild of three UC San Diego PhD students, ThoughtSTEM offers hands-on, project based programs designed to introduce and teach computer science skills to pre-high school and college students.

“ThoughtSTEM is very excited to be working at Gompers Preparatory Academy,” said Sarah Esper, ThoughtSTEM co-founder. “This year we have 20 extremely enthusiastic sixth through ninth graders in our after school computer programming class. To participate, students had to apply and show a strong interest in learning about computer programming and the field of computer science. There are some very interesting projects already underway.”

Each week an experienced teacher, along with several UC San Diego computer science undergraduate students, assist the students with their computer programming projects.  The undergraduates have an opportunity to not only help the GPA students with their work, but to mentor and share with them what it is actually like to be a computer scientist.

GPA students learn to program using a language called Scratch (scratch.mit.edu). This language, along with the curriculum built by ThoughtSTEM, engages students in complex programming concepts such as conditionals, looping, methods and parameters.

“We’ve discovered student math abilities may be improving as a result of participation in the ThoughtSTEM class,” Esper said. “We plan to team up with CREATE’s research and evaluation group to discover how persistence and problem solving abilities may affect student achievement.”

Esper is looking forward to continuing the partnership with CREATE and Gompers next year.

“Though we were able to only accommodate 20 of the 55 applicants at GPA this year, we hope the benefits of this year’s ThoughtSTEM after school class, along with the support of the school and students, will open up the opportunity to many more after school programs in the future.”

Supporting ThoughtSTEM to bring its STEM opportunity to GPA was part of the CREATE STEM Success Initiative, a new campus effort to leverage UC San Diego’ STEM resources alongside the education community’s to engage more high-need students and their teachers  in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.