AUSTIN, Texas—The UT-CS Volunteers@AISD student group from the department of computer sciences at The University of Texas at Austin has earned a Partners in Education Career Development Award from the Austin Independent School District (AISD).
The award was presented at the annual Partners in Education awards banquet at the Frank Erwin Center for the group’s many contributions to the computer systems and computer club of Bedichek Middle School in South Austin.
The students are undergraduate computer science majors who have met under the auspices of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) since 1999. UT-CS stands for University of Texas Computer Sciences.
The 23 UT Austin undergraduates sorted, repaired and installed 52 donated computer systems at Bedichek this year. Their efforts helped the school put at least one student computer in every classroom, and multiple computers in the language arts classrooms.
The students were nominated for the award by Bedichek technology specialist Susan Wolter.
"One is bowled over by the dedication and service the UTCS Volunteers provide to our students at Bedichek Middle School on a regular basis," said Wolter. "This tireless group of volunteers has worked its way into the hearts and lives of the students."
Dr. Stephen Keckler, an assistant professor in the department of computer science, sponsored the group, and obtained a donation of software licenses from Microsoft Corp., valued at $42,480, so the volunteers could install Windows 95 and Microsoft Office 97 on the new computers. Last year, he arranged a donation from Microsoft for a computer applications laboratory at the middle school.
The UTCS student volunteers also mentored members of the Bedichek computer club. They met with club members at the middle school every Tuesday from October to April, to teach the sixth and seventh graders about topics such as Web page design, basic computer programming, the Internet, e-mail and computer hardware.
"The UT students had a great opportunity to learn about teaching and mentoring, while the Bedichek students were able to learn valuable skills from role models at The University," said Dr. Keckler. "I think the two groups of students bonded more easily because of the relatively small difference in age."
Lillie Anderson is a senior from Midland. She and Houston junior Malinda Chen oversaw the UT Austin volunteers’ efforts, as well as encouraging the middle school students to consider the computer sciences as career options.
The Bedichek computer club members visited the UT Austin campus periodically with their undergraduate "buddies," to become more familiar with a college campus and the benefits of a college education. In March, the students and buddies were judged to have the best booth at the annual Austin Science Fun Day on campus featuring Web pages and computer games created by the middle school students with materials and donations from the UT Austin chapter of ACM.
UT Austin volunteers put in 1,080 hours on the project.
"We’re not in it to win an award. But it’s really nice when your work is recognized and appreciated, like the frosting on the cake," Anderson said. "You have to have been involved for more than a year to get the award, so it’s sort of a pat on the back for all three of our years of experience."
For more information, contact Dr. Stephen Keckler at (512) 471-9763 or <firstname.lastname@example.org> or Caroline Ladhani at (512) 232-1075.