As computer science becomes integral to more and more fields of study, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q) is reaching out to high schoolers to introduce them to the field. The Computer Science Programme at CMU-Q has teamed up with Boeing to design and deliver the ‘Mindcraft’ workshops, day-long sessions that guide students through computer science disciplines like robotics, cryptography, and computational thinking.

Leading the project is Khaled Harras, Programme Director and Associate Professor of Computer Science at CMU-Q, said:

The National Vision 2030 is to transform Qatar into a knowledge-based economy; computer science knowledge is an unavoidable requirement to help materialise this vision. We have the goal of introducing 1000 high school students in Qatar to computer science over this academic year. We want to have a deep impact.’

Since launching the programme in September, 550 students have participated in the Saturday workshops taught by computer science faculty members, researchers and engineers.

Maria Laine, Vice President of International Strategic Partnerships for Boeing Defense, Space & Security, said:

Boeing is proud to support programmes that aim to inspire our next generation of leaders and innovators to pursue careers in STEM-related fields. Through this new initiative, students will have access to challenges and workshops that introduce them to a range of computer science material that can help give them the 21st century skills and knowledge they need to be successful long-term.’

Harras remarked:

Computing will be important to these students, no matter what they study in university; many advancements in other fields of science, engineering and even humanities have been further enabled with the integration of various computer science disciplines.’

Participant Gabriel Bullen is an 11th grade aspiring filmmaker at Qatar Academy. He learned of Mindcraft through his school counsellor. Bullen said:

Computers and technology are of course a major part of life, and they have also become such a big part of filmmaking and art in general. That really made me want to try Mindcraft to understand more about how I can use them in my films.’

Just a few hours into the workshop, Mohammed Al Sayed of the Academic Bridge Programme had learned the difference between Java and Python programming languages and used functions to solve tasks. He is now inspired to create his own apps.

He said:

One recent idea that I had that got me quite excited about programming is making a mobile application to create economic competition between garages in Qatar. You could look at the app and see what garages are selling things for, and compare prices.’

While Bullen and Al Sayed had previous experience with programming, one challenge for the Mindcraft facilitators is to create workshops that can accommodate varying levels of student skills without intimidating or excluding anyone.

Nour Tabet, Outreach Coordinator in the Computer Science Programme at CMU-Q, said:

We have worked hard to ensure that the Mindcraft programme is both interesting and educational. We don’t want anyone to feel bored because it is too basic, or left behind because it is too advanced. She adds that future plans include a similar programme aimed at students in grades seven through nine.’

Interested students can apply here.

Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar is now accepting applications to the Computer Science Programme for fall 2017, as well as its other programmes in biological sciences, business administration, computational biology and information systems.