As enrollment numbers in college computer-science departments continue to dwindle, professors are contemplating ever-more-elaborate strategies to keep the United States from slipping further in the international engineering sweepstakes. One particularly popular idea: rebranding computer-science programs to broaden their appeal.
According to the Associated Press, more than a dozen universities have created “media computation” programs, which hope to introduce students to computer science through digital art and Web design, not traditional programming.
Other institutions are shifting away from the big tent of computer science, choosing instead to focus on more specific fields, like bioengineering and robotics. At the Georgia Institute of Technology, for example, robotics students have spent the semester teaching robots to draw shapes, to chirp on command, and to navigate obstacle courses.
Tucker Balch, a computer-science professor at Georgia Tech, told the AP that the course is an attempt to combat “prime number” syndrome. That disease, he says, afflicts computer-science departments that typically ask newcomers to write dull programs performing mathematical algorithms.
For more on Georgia Tech’s embrace of robotics, see an article from The Chronicle by Josh Fischman. —Brock Read