High school students attend summer computing academy

Josh Kurtz The Triangle 7/17/09

June 28 marked the beginning of the five-week Drexel University Computing Academy, a program for high school students that replaced the Pennsylvania Governor's School for Information, Society and Technology. This Governor's School had been held at Drexel since 1999 until its funding was eliminated earlier in 2009 due to state budget cuts.

DUCA is being run by the College of Engineering's Department of Computer Science and the College of Information Science and Technology (iSchool). The program features 25 high school students from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, most of whom are from the greater Philadelphia area. All students in the program recently completed their junior year of high school, though Drexel also opened the program to students who recently finished their sophomore year.

Jeffrey Popyack, associate professor in Computer Science and academic director of DUCA, said it was a shock to find out the Governor's School was canceled.

"[The Governor's School had] been a program that we enjoyed running and wanted to continue doing," Popyack said.

Popyack and others who had helped with the school decided to institute a replacement summer offering at Drexel.

Unlike the Governor's School, students attending DUCA pay tuition. Tuition costs a total $4,000 per student, $3,000 of which is eligible to be repaid as a scholarship if the student chooses to attend Drexel, according to Popyack. The remaining costs of the program are shared among the iSchool, College of Engineering, Provost's Office and Enrollment Management.

Popyack said he hopes students participating in the program will consider attending Drexel. Students who participated in the Governor's School at Drexel have attended the University, some majoring in subjects similar to those covered in the program.

Students participating in DUCA learn about different computer-related topics and later in the program choose a specific concentration track. Subjects covered include programming, object-oriented analysis and design, human-computer interaction, databases and game design. Non-technical subjects include leadership, marketing and computer ethics. DUCA also offers a course that focuses on information about Drexel and the co-op program.

Monica Jacobs from Swarthmore, Pa., said she liked the fact that they get to try a variety of different things in IT through the program.

Another student, Robbie Rozansky from Abington, Pa.said he likes the programming class in Python, a computer language.

In addition to attending classes, the students participate in activities including movie nights, bowling and salsa dancing. They reside in Myers Hall during the program.

Popyack said he has been very happy with the students in the program and that they are a talented, enthusiastic and very congenial group.

"It's great to see students that young getting into programming," Mike Dalton, a junior majoring in computer science and teaching assistant at DUCA, said.

Even if the Governor's School returns in the future, Popyack said Drexel would like to keep DUCA. A part of the program could potentially be devoted to the Governor's School, he added.

In the future DUCA would also like to increase the number of students participating in the program to 50. This number would be closer to the enrollment of previous years' Governor's Schools at Drexel. The program may also look for sponsors from organizations such as corporations or government.

In addition to Drexel, Lehigh University also organized a program to replace their Governor's School. Many colleges who had hosted a Governor's School were unable to create a replacement program.

Unlike the Governor's School, DUCA is open to out-of-state residents and students who recently finished their sophomore year of high school.

Popyack said he has "been really happy about the way [the department of computer science] and the iSchool have been able to work together" on the program.

DUCA is one of the larger projects the two have worked on together.