San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

by SEAN BATURA

Google announced this week it will award $15,000 to Mathworks at Texas State University.

The grant is one of several Google Roots in Science and Engineering (RISE) Awards, which are offered annually to organizations that provide science, technology, math and science (STEM) enrichment programs to K-12 and university students.

Mathworks, which offers math and science immersion opportunities for kids, teacher training, and curriculum materials, will use the RISE grant for its 2012 Honors Summer Math Camp.

“With a shortage of STEM-trained young people in the pipeline, we want to get young people excited about STEM at an early age, and work with local organizations to increase access to STEM education,” said Google spokesperson Rachel Durfee. “With the Google RISE award, Mathworks is getting a step closer to helping students in San Marcos become empowered, intelligent, and inspired drivers of the technology that will shape and improve all of our futures.”

Google awarded RISE grants totalling more than $340,000 to 13 U.S., eight European and five African organizations this year. The program just expanded to Africa.

Roxy Shirkhoda, Google in Education K-12 education outreach coordinator, said Google chose Mathworks and the 12 other U.S. programs because they offer valuable opportunities to minority and economically-disadvantaged students.

“We work really hard to try to make sure we have a diverse student group,” said Andrew Hsiau, Mathworks program specialist. “So we’ve averaged about 50 percent of our campers come for free or almost free.”

Mathworks’ Honors Summer Math Camp is offered to about 60 promising high school students from all over Texas. Google’s grant will allow Mathworks to provide the summer camp for free to low-income students, as well as provide other resources to run the program.

“I think this (Mathworks summer camp) is a great example of one way for kids over the summer to learn something new and to engage in a world that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to,” Shirkhoda said.

Mathworks’ summer camp program allows high school students to live on the Texas State campus for six weeks, immerse themselves in math and science, and spend time with peers who share their interests. The campers are mentored by Texas State professors and alumni. Hsiau said the alumni mentors are often undergraduates who have continued their studies at MIT, Harvard, or Stanford. This year’s summer camp will offer instruction in computer programming and other topics.

According to Mathworks’ website, a recent survey of former Honors Summer Math Camp participants indicated more than 80 percent of them are majoring in math, science or engineering. The universities with the most Honors Camp alums are the University of Texas at Austin, Stanford, MIT, Rice, Harvard, Texas A&M, Yale, Cal-Tech, and UC Berkley, according to Mathworks. Seven of its Honors Summer Math Camp alumni were named Presidential Scholars by a national program that recognizes two students from each U.S. state each year.

“We are lucky to have alumni from their (Mathworks’) program working at Google,” Shirkhoda said. “For us, that’s really inspirational to see that the exposure that these organizations provide to students is kind of filling these job opportunities that are really large out there. We know that by 2018 there are going to be over 1.5 million job opportunities in the computer science world, and only currently about a third of students are eligible to fill those job applications, because they don’t learn enough.”

Organizations interested in applying for 2013 Google RISE funding can find more information here.

2011 Honors Summer Math Camp participants. PHOTO via TEXAS STATE

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