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Native American students attend Math in Action camp

June 3, 2013

Six girls and two boys in grades six through eight at Cortez Middle School are attending an educational summer camp June 3-7.

As part of the CSU Alliance program, the Little Shop of Physics also visits Cortez Middle School and others in the Four Corners area every spring break.To ignite Native American students’ interest in math as a tool to solve real-world problems, eight students  -- six girls and two boys -- in grades six through eight at Cortez Middle School are attending a Math in Action in Computer Science educational summer camp on campus in Fort Collins June 3-7.

The camp experience is designed to share hands-on math concepts that students can apply in computer science, with the goal that students will gain an interest in math and science and successfully graduate from high school, while eyeing college educations in math and science.

Near the Ute and Navajo Indian reservations, Cortez Middle School experiences a high dropout rate in the transition from middle school to high school. The middle school is a feeder school for Cortez Montezuma High School, which is one of the 10 CSU Alliance schools in Colorado.

The university’s Alliance program is a partnership with 10 Colorado high schools that aims to encourage high school students to attend college. Through the initiative, Colorado State collaborates with the schools and their communities to align efforts at the high schools with the expectations of the university.

Students hand-selected

“We are excited to have these students visit our campus and get a taste for how exciting math and computer science can be, through some hands-on applications,” says Shrideep Pallickara, assistant professor in the CSU Department of Computer Science. “The students were hand-selected to attend our camp by Justine Bayles, a math and science teacher in the Cortex Middle School, who lives on the reservation. She will accompany her students to the camp.”

The camp includes sessions on how to apply to college and financial aid opportunities. It  also gives students an opportunity to meet with CSU Native American students in the Colleges of Natural Sciences and Engineering, who will discuss pursuing a career in the fields of STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

The camp is part of a $400,000 National Science Foundation Early CAREER award Pallickara received earlier this year. In addition to funding research into how to make computer systems more efficient, the grant requires the recipient to provide educational opportunities for students. The middle school outreach activities are targeted at improving assimilation of mathematical concepts among Native American students. Pallickara will also work with the students throughout the school year.

 At CSU, Pallickara is known for his enthusiastic teaching style. He was rewarded this spring with the Department of Computer Science’s first Effective and Innovative Teaching Award.