The hallways and classrooms of Roger Bacon Hall were full of young, energetic thinkers during the Department of Computer Science’s 6th annual Students Interested in Mathematics and Problem-solving unAware of Computer Talent (IMPACT) Program. IMPACT brings Capital Region high school students together to participate in a series of activities aimed at sparking career exploration and developing an understanding of the computer science field.
“Most high schools don’t have the resources to provide an emphasis on computer science classes,” said IMPACT Volunteer Tyler Mann ’13. “It is so important since the concepts learned in these classes can be applied to many different areas.”
The high school students in attendance were nominated by teachers, because they excel in mathematics and science.
“This program is great for those strong math students that don’t know what they could do with that skill set. The jump is so large from high school to college and the first step is to expose the students to future possibilities,” said Colonie Central High School Math Teacher Dave Fields ’99. “IMPACT gives students the opportunity to learn more about the field of computer science through a unique hands-on experience.”
There was an added bonus for Fields. Attending the IMPACT Program gave him the chance to return to his alma mater and see how technologically advanced Siena has become since he graduated.
“When I was at Siena the Internet was just becoming popular. Seeing the new technologies available for my students to use today is amazing. Colonie Central has been coming to IMPACT for three years and we plan to continue taking advantage of the great benefit.”
The day-long program included several instruction sessions followed by interactive exercises. Teams of students competed against each other in programming challenges, during which each student had a specific role to play.
“I was excited to be a part of IMPACT because I wanted to see how college students and professionals think and problem solve,” said Tech Valley High junior Hunter Fortuin. “There was so much teamwork and social interaction necessary in order to solve the problem. It was really cool.”
Professor of Computer Science Mary Anne Egan, Ph.D. explained that in addition to providing career exploration opportunities, the IMPACT Program is meant to clear up misconceptions about the field of computer science.
“So many people think that it’s a solitary profession where people sit and write program code all day,” Egan said. “It is actually a very people-oriented field that pulls from the skills of all majors, including business and the arts. IMPACT really lets these students see that.”
The effects of Siena’s IMPACT program have been far-reaching. Last summer, a paper about Siena’s IMPACT program was featured at the Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education Conference in Germany. It is the premier international conference on computer science education.
Still, Egan says the program’s biggest accomplishment is its ability to help highly-skilled students find their passion for computer science.