The NSF Funded Exploring Computing Careers Broadening Participation Research project is to develop a virtual career fair using embodied conversational agents (ECAs) that will engage students in career discussions and, if they have interest in computing, help inspire them to reach their potential in computing careers. Part of the rationale for this project is that many students are enrolled in high schools without any teacher or counselor who are truly knowledgeable about computing careers. Additionally, many students are not exposed to any underrepresented minorities in computing careers. Participating high school students will benefit by receiving up-to-date career information from computing professionals currently in the field via the ECAs. The expected outcomes for students interacting with the ECA via the ComputingCareersNow.org website is: 1) students are more likely to consider a career in computing, 2) students who considered a career in computing but didn’t know if they pursue it would be more interested in pursuing it and 3) students who want to pursue a career in computing can start investigating what careers they want to pursue and what requirements are needed to achieve that career.
Four members of the Culturally Relevant Computing Lab presented their research this weekend at the ACM Southeast Conference. The title of the poster presentation was entitled “Introduction to Computer Science for Urban African American Students Using Sphero Robotics Workshop”. The four students consisted of Trey Ridley, Ernest Holmes, Kevin Womack and Jordan Scott from Morehouse College. An abstract from the submission is provided below:
This paper introduces the use of an all-day coding workshop as an intervention to introduce and expose African American high school students from a southeastern urban school district to coding and computing careers. The workshop is held at a local HBCU and led by African American undergraduates computer science majors who attend that HBCU. The workshop is focused on a robotic ball called an Sphero that allows users to control its motion and color by writing lines of code. Results from workshop showed an increase of interest in pursuing a career in computing after graduation compared to interest before the start of the workshop.
Students: Shawn Wilkinson, Benard Dickens, III and Dominic Roberts
At Morehouse College the Computer Science Curriculum consists of an introductory core of three sequential courses. Unfortunately, students who matriculate through this sequence sometimes struggle with concepts that were misunderstood or forgotten from one course to the next. The purpose of this research was to create an online digital library of tutorial content to provide supplementary instruction for programming concepts that need to be reemphasized for the next programming course. The goal of this research was to increase the retention in the Computer Science Department as well as increase the mastery of the core computing concepts needed by students of the Computer Science department.
Students: Joshua Posey & Khabir Muhammad
The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is a standardized test that is an admissions requirement for many graduate schools in the United States. For underrepresented minority students who want to pursue graduate study in computing, the GRE can serve as a barrier for gaining admission. MyGREPrep is a GRE preparation website application that teaches GRE content using culturally relevant cues and themes. Users of the systems watch videos of other underrepresented minorities working through sample test problems explained using themes of interest to the user. The premise is that students will become more interested in preparing for the GRE, which will ultimately yield in higher scores on the exam and more acceptances into graduate computing programs.
Students: Joshua Posey, Jamal Thorne and Austin Tucker
Due to an increase in the population size of underrepresented minorities (URMs) and a critical shortage of U.S. citizens who are entering into academic majors involving Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), it is critical for the United States to create a “pipeline” for undergraduate minorities to increase their presence in STEM disciplines. Graduate school panels are frequently used to disseminate information to students regarding post-baccalaureate STEM education. This research is an attempt to virtualize audience-specific graduate school panels through an online multimedia application. The CRCL hypothesized that URM undergraduates with access to the application would be more encouraged to pursue graduate studies in STEM disciplines and that URM graduate students would benefit from peer support via the application, increasing their likelihood of obtaining a graduate STEM degree.
Students: John Angel
Relational Agents are “computational artifacts designed to build long-term, social- emotional, relationships with their users.” They are able to build relationships with their users that increases the user’s enjoyment of the application. The disadvantage of this technology is that when the relational agent appears unrealistic, some users will find it challenging to build a relationship with the agent. In addition, due to software limitations on today’s smartphones, relational agents may not be able to load on a mobile device. Short Message Service, or SMS, is a method through which six billion messages are sent from person-to-person through mobile phones every day making SMS an alternative interface to which many individuals will have mobile access. Using the Twilio API, an interface was developed with the same conversational functionality as Relational Agents. This paper investigates the potential of SMS interfaces as an alternative to interfaces using an Embodied Conversational Agent in specific scenarios.
Students: Warren Wilkerson and John Porter, III.
Recycling is key component to sustainability due to its reduction of overall use of limited materials. Some of the most popular materials that can be recycled are paper, glass, plastic, metal, and compostables. However, there are other items that are atypical that people do not know can be recycled. In this study, we constructed an embodied conversational agent (ECA) to inform users on how to recycle these items. The ECA also informs users of how these common and uncommon items are to be prepared for recycling and where they can be recycled in the Atlanta Metropolitan Area. A pilot study was designed to collect initial feedback on the effectiveness and user satisfaction of the ECA. We hypothesize that this ECA will be just as effective and have a higher user satisfaction than other electronic resources.
Students: Keythe Gentry and John Porter, III
This research highlights the construction of an online interactive map tool that can display donation drop box locations and give an assessment to the credibility of the company that owns the box. All donation drop boxes are not linked to non-profit charities such as those owned by Goodwill and the Salvation Army. For-profit companies such as USAgain have their own donation drop boxes; however, since the IRS does not recognize these organizations as charitable organizations, they are not required to spend a majority of the profit gained from their donation drop boxes on charitable programs. This website will allow users to distinguish between for-profit and not-for-profit donation drop boxes.
Students: Marvin Turner, Jonathan Johnson and Akin Oladele
Information from the CRA Taulbee survey, and two reports from the National Research Council identify an alarming disparity among underrepresented minorities in Science and Engineering (S&E) fields, more particularly computer science. When compared to results from the 2010 Census, it is shown that African Americans and other groups are severely underrepresented in computing fields in juxtaposition to their share of the general population.
To solve this problem, the CRCL looked into a variety of information sharing methods and decided to take a storytelling approach. The CRCL proceeded to develop a virtual storytelling agent to serve as an interactive mentor to students interested in attending graduate school, educating them on the benefits of applying to graduate school. After interacting with this mentor, users were then asked to complete a short survey that was used to evaluate its effectiveness.
Students: John J. Porter III and David Cherry
This study seeks to construct and evaluate the effectiveness of an embodied conversational agent (ECA) to aid the college campus counseling centers. Spiritual guidance content was chosen to enhance students’ wellbeing in addition to their spiritual health awareness. An ECA has been created and populated with content from a non-denominational church local to the institution where an experimental study will be conducted. An experiment has been designed to test the effects of the ECA opposed to a non-conversational spiritual advisement guide (spiritual advisor- wiki). The usability of the ECA will be compared to the usability of a generated online wiki programmed with the same content. It is hypothesized that the students will prefer interaction with the ECA compared to the wiki.