400 Dublin school students attend ComputeTY at DCU

21 Feb 2011

More than 400 transition-year students from 26 schools across Dublin and its environs took part in the ComputeTY programme at DCU’s School of Computing, which introduced them to web design and computer programming.

The course not only gives the student a taste of university life but it could also interest more young people in attending computer courses at third level and help defeat future skills shortages.

ComputeTY runs for four weeks in January with more than 100 students each week in attendance. All of those schools who have succeeded in securing places have responded positively to the programme and at the end of each week a competition is run and a winner is announced from both the web stream and programming stream.

“This programme has run very successfully in the past and this year, thanks to funding from the HEA and CNGL we can continue to run this programme and promote computing education to students from all backgrounds of society,” Mike Scott, head of the School of Computing, explained.

Computing and digital technology is a crucial and productive element to the success of Ireland’s future and an important learning tool in our young people’s lives. Our school is constantly trying to encourage students to understand and learn the benefits of computing and more so than ever in 2011, it is important we continue to support and encourage them into the world of computing and digital technology.”

Computing as a career option

Since its launch in 2005, ComputeTY has been completed by almost 3,000 transition-year students from Dublin schools. The course enables students to develop practical computing skills and to gain certification from DCU for their work.

With industry experts expressing concern that too few students are currently opting for computing at third level, the ComputeTY course aims to show students first hand how interesting information technology can be and thereby encourages them to consider computing/IT as an attractive career option. The initiative also aims to strengthen DCU’s links with the local community.

‘We have put together a programme structure that is divided into two streams, Stream 1 – web design and Stream 2 – an introduction to programming,” Scott said.

The overall content works for those students who have a strong aptitude for computing and also for those who have an interest in computing but who may require extra help and encouragement.

Students participating in the programming stream learn how to instruct a virtual robot to carry out simple tasks, such as moving and transporting objects using a training programme called RobotWorld. This programming course mirrors some of the first-year content of the BSc in computer applications degree.

Run by DCU School of Computing, the course is supported by the HEA (Higher Education Authority) and the Centre for Next Generation Localisation (CNGL), a world-leading research centre, where researchers are producing advances in how computers can adapt software and digital content, including computer games, to different languages and cultures.

“The response from students and teachers so far has been extremely positive and more schools are phoning and requesting to be part of the programme next year, so hopefully if the funding is there, we will rerun it again and introduce the opportunity to other schools,” Scott said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years