Mira-Mini | Informatics Diversity-Enhanced Workforce (iDEW) : TechPoint Foundation for Youth Bridge Builder Award
Gerry Dick: Well, the TechPoint Foundation for Youth Bridge Builder Award this year goes to, iDEW program at IUPUI here in Indianapolis. Accepting the award this evening, Mathew Palakal, who is the Executive Associate Dean of the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI. Mathew, congratulations.
Dr. Mathew Palakal: Thank you.
Gerry Dick: Talk... This is a unique program.
Dr. Mathew Palakal: Yes.
Gerry Dick: And it really came about because of a need, and you got a phone call from the business community to start it. Tell me about that phone call.
Dr. Mathew Palakal: Yes. The call was about how can we increase the build or fill the gap with the underserved, underrepresented minority in the IT workforce. That gap is serious, and therefore, we started looking into how to improve that pool of workforce in the IT with the underrepresented population. So, that's where it all started.
Gerry Dick: I think as we were talking before we started taping, you thought, hey, how do you do it? You just go out and recruit. Right? You thought it was a simple... But, it was much more complex.
Dr. Mathew Palakal: Exactly. So, we thought, " What is the big deal? We can recruit more students into our programs, in computer science, in computing areas," but then we realize there aren't any pool out there to recruit from, and then the reason is the lack of interest in the field or lack of understanding awareness. Therefore, we had to find a way to make that interest happen. So, how to develop that and instill that interest in the program, in stem, in computing, in computer science, in these areas.
Gerry Dick: All right.
Dr. Mathew Palakal: For that purpose, with that goal in mind, we developed a new approach, a new curriculum to instill that interest in the field. It's called Computing by Design that we implemented. We started with the three schools with the 75 students, and now here we are.
Gerry Dick: A lot of students impacted by this talk about how it works, because you go out actually into the high schools, right? I think you're working with eight high schools in the Indianapolis area. Talk about the iDEW program, and what specifically you do in these high schools.
Dr. Mathew Palakal: Exactly. We have eight schools right now. The way it works is we have developed this curriculum, the teachers are trained, we have our faculty, our staff, and our students. The informatics and computing students are there to support the cohort for this. The teachers are trained on this curriculum. On the side, our faculty trained them. The unique feature or the characteristics about this program is project based learning, therefore, the students are working on small groups, working on specific projects, and they work together. That includes soft skill, communication skill, working together, all those. Therefore, throughout this program, there's a wraparound services. That is the most important part. The curriculum is one thing, but the wraparound services to get the students the help they need throughout the program, throughout the semester, and in the end of the semester, they need to present a project where we invite the community to come, and there's a competition, there's a price, there are awards given, so that builds up the interest, and energy, and enthusiasm.
Gerry Dick: Talk about the impact, because I know it's a big number, 2, 500 students, and you're really feeding or fueling that STEM pipeline through this program, right?
Dr. Mathew Palakal: Correct. So, 2, 500 students so far impacted through this program, high school years ninth through 12th grades. We have the first couple of cohorts graduated from the program. 88% of the students moved on to college education in various Indiana colleges, Indiana University, IUPUI, Purdue University, and various others. The retention in this program is also in the very high, 88% or 87% staying in the program, and we have the very first cohort of students who graduated from the high school, pursued their college degree, now graduating, now entering the workforce. So, that is happening, that's going to happen now.
Gerry Dick: A program with real impact that is just now beginning to be felt, The TechPoint Foundation for Youth Bridge Builder Award winner, the iDEW program from IUPUI, Mathew Palakal, really appreciate you taking time to stop here, and congratulations on the award.
Dr. Mathew Palakal: Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Thank you.
The Bridge Builder Award recognizes visionary leaders who offer underserved student populations in Indiana experiential learning opportunities that encourage science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. Based in Indianapolis and launched in 2015, iDEW is a partnership between academia, Indiana corporations and organizations and is led by high school teachers, with training and support provided by IU School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI faculty, staff, and near-peer mentors that open opportunities for underrepresented minorities.