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Summer Program Opens High-Tech World to Deaf Students


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student using sign language

Sarah McGough, 16, of Mesquite, Texas, uses sign language to ask questions about her classmates' animation project as part of the University of Washington's Summer Academy for Advancing Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Computing program.

Credit: Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times

The University of Washington's (UW's) Summer Academy for Advancing Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Computing, funded by the National Science Foundation, aims to diversity the computer science work force by encouraging deaf and hard-of-hearing students to pursue advanced degrees and careers in computer science. Many of the students involved in the program are being exposed to technology careers for the first time.

The nine-week program, launched by UW professor Richard Ladner, recruits 10 outstanding math and science students ages of 16 to 22 from around the country. The students live on campus and take college-level programming courses and earn a certificate in computer animation. The program includes field trips to Microsoft, Google, Adobe, and Valve, a computer-game company. Students also meet deaf professionals at those firms, and learn methods for functioning in a hearing work environment.

The students work in teams to create a three-minute video short as their final product. Program coordinator Rob Roth, who is deaf, says hearing-impaired students are more likely to be channeled into careers repairing computers than writing software or designing new applications, but he believes they are capable of much more.

From The Seattle Times
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