EMC Professor Marc Barr secures mentoring grant from National Science Foundation

nsf logo EMC Professor Marc Barr secures mentoring grant from National Science FoundationProfessor Marc Barr has secured a grant of $5,100 for the funding of the 2013 SIGGRAPH Pioneer Mentoring Program for high school students. The mission of the program is to attract primarily underserved and minority students to all computer graphics related fields, both creative and technical. SIGGRAPH, a special interest group of the Association for Computing Machinery, holds the world’s premier conference devoted to computer graphics and interactive techniques.
EducationLogo EMC Professor Marc Barr secures mentoring grant from National Science FoundationHigh school students are selected through an application and referral process and given the opportunity to spend a week at the annual conference paired with a mentor from industry or academia. Although the majority of the students come from areas local to the site of the annual conference, it is open to all and we have had some students participate who have had their expenses paid for by their local schools.

The mentors volunteer their time during the week to not only speak with the students, but to accompany them to various venues and to introduce the students to concepts and potential career paths that they might be unaware of.

In addition to experiencing the conference, guest speakers from various computer graphics related fields give presentations to the students related to their various industries and insight into what skills and competencies are needed in the workplace.

Background

There is a significant amount of information that indicates a continuing decline in the number of students interested in science and technology. Authors include the National Research Council, the National Science Board, ACM, NASA, AIAA, and numerous others. There are many programs in place that are trying to improve teaching skills and to attract students to technical fields. This proposal is aimed at recruiting more students to technical careers.

The SIGGRAPH Pioneers started a Mentoring program in 2003 to try to add more students to the technology pipeline. While a relatively small number (about 15 students per year) attend each year, we have continuously collected student impressions after the conference to gauge impact. The Mentoring program has been replicated by other organizations. We provide more detail in the Results to Date section.

SIGGRAPH (www.siggraph.org), a special interest group of the Association for Computing Machinery, holds the world’s premier conference devoted to computer graphics and interactive techniques. The conference has run continuously since 1974. The organization started a SIGGRAPH-Asia version in 2008. Attendance in the U.S. routinely exceeds 15,000. This funding request is limited to the U.S. version of SIGGRAPH. SIGGRAPH201 will be held in CA 201.

The annual conference is well-regarded and is considered as the place to publish, experience, and learn about the latest in computer graphics and interactive techniques. SIGGRAPH, the organization, and SIGGRAPH, the conference, have become synonymous.

SIGGRAPH itself is often held in Los Angeles on a bi-annual basis (in even-numbered years). In odd-numbered years, the conference moves to large cities in the Eastern (e.g., Boston), Central (e.g., New Orleans), and Western (e.g., San Diego, Vancouver BC) regions of the country.

SIGGRAPH combines excellent technical papers, courses, a large trade show, a computer animation festival, an art show, emerging graphics technology, and a number of hands-on activities. The conference has direct impact on computer graphics evolution in arts and entertainment. The same basic technology is also applied in product design, visualization, medicine, seismic exploration, building architecture, chemistry, physics, biology, and any other domain that uses graphics as a primary mechanism to communicate. Participants routinely attend who have interests in all the above technical fields and many more.

Conclusion

The Pioneers Mentoring program has already had real impact. With the grant, NSF insures continuity and can potentially expand the program’s reach. Technology careers are at such a low level that numerous different approaches are needed to keep the students interested. The Pioneers Mentoring program has become one.

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