CSE hosts first virtual Computing Exploration Day event

Oct 29, 2020      By Victoria Grdina

Students at CSE Hack Day in 2019 participating in an Escape Room Challenge activity.
Students at CSE Hack Day in 2019 participating in an Escape Room Challenge activity.

The Department of Computer Science and Engineering hosted its first Computing Exploration Day on Saturday, October 24.

Computing Exploration Day is a new, half-day virtual learning event for Nebraska high school students. About 29 students from several schools and states—including California, Michigan, Minnesota, and Kansas—participated in the event. The event was free to attend thanks to sponsorship from Sandhills Global.

Event and recruitment coordinator Brittney Palmer said Computing Exploration Day was designed to introduce high school students to computing and the university’s program.

“We wanted to provide an outreach event that could provide engaging lessons on various computing topics to high school students,” Palmer said. “We also wanted to provide prospective students a snapshot of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering by meeting current students and faculty.”

The event was split into multiple sessions, during which students could select and attend workshops and panels presented by CSE faculty, current CSE students, and a Sandhills Global representative.

“The event was designed as a ‘choose your own adventure’ day,” Palmer said. “Some participants came to learn more about computing, some came to meet faculty, and some came to learn about our majors. Whatever reason brought them to the event, I think we had an activity to meet their needs.”

Computing Exploration Day was created to replace CSE Hack Day, a day of hands-on activities that could not be held this year under COVID-19 restrictions. Palmer said the pivot to a virtual event ultimately offered a few unexpected advantages.  

“Our current COVID-19 situation has opened our eyes to how we can get students the information they want and need without ever leaving the comfort of their own home,” Palmer said. “We were able to give 8 out-of-state students a glimpse of what life is like as a Husker without ever setting foot on campus. We were also able to host students from western Nebraska who would typically need to make a 6-hour trip to get to an in-person event.”

Computing Exploration Day not only allowed students to learn about new computing concepts, but it also helped them imagine a professional career in technology and an educational career at Nebraska.

“Even in a normal year, they don’t get as much of an opportunity to have these kinds of in-depth conversations with people on campus,” Palmer said. “I think the participants can now envision themselves in a computing field after talking with people who are currently living that life.”

The Department of Computer Science and Engineering plans to host another event for high school students next fall. The CSE website will be updated when a 2021 date and more information have been determined.