The Informatics Diversity-Enhanced Workforce (iDEW) program recently wrapped up its third year with semester-end presentations at three Indianapolis area high schools. Students at Pike, Arsenal Technical, and Providence Cristo Rey high schools showcased their robotics projects to enthusiastic audiences of parents, administrators, industry professionals, IUPUI faculty and staff, and fellow students.
The student-designed robots included machines that performed tasks like filling potholes and assisting in fire rescue, and devices that collected and disposed of hair clippings in a salon. In previous semesters, iDEW student projects focused on video game design, Internet of Things (IoT), trivia apps, data visualization, and chatbots.
The iDEW initiative was conceived as an IT talent pipeline targeted to underrepresented youth and was designed to teach critical skills through project-based learning. The comprehensive program is the result of a partnership between academia and Indiana corporations and organizations and is led by teachers at the high schools, with training and support provided by IU School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI faculty, staff, and near-peer mentors.
Students participate through their senior year, can earn dual credit through Indiana University and professional IT certifications as they advance, and are prepared for the IT workforce as well as for enrollment in two-year and four-year college degree programs.
Over 400 students have completed courses in the unique iDEW program so far—expanding from 70 freshmen in three classes in its pilot year to fourteen classes in fall 2017—representing 540 percent growth and a student retention rate of 81 percent. Twenty-two students graduated in spring 2017, all of whom attended college that fall; 18 majored in STEM disciplines. This year, 61 seniors graduated from iDEW; 54 of them are currently enrolled in college classes, four are in the military, one is working on technical certifications, and the other two are taking a gap year.
The iDEW program was recognized by US2020 with a 2017 STEM Mentoring Award for Excellence in Public-Private Partnerships, and this year received a Techpoint Mira Award for Tech Educator of the Year.
This upcoming school year, iDEW leadership is expanding the program to five new schools to reach more underserved students. IU School of Informatics and Computing Senior Executive Associate Dean Mathew J. Palakal, program director of iDEW, says, “Our industry partners offer counsel on current technology and workforce needs, and community donors provide much needed financial support. Together, we have transformed the lives of hundreds of bright young students. We look forward to bringing the iDEW program to even more of our youth.”
Those interested in exploring opportunities for financial investment or employee involvement in iDEW are asked to contact IU School of Informatics and Computing Director of Development Stacy Zearing, iDEW Program Manager Vicki Daugherty, or iDEW Program Director Mathew J. Palakal for more information.