Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, recently made a significant gift to The University of Texas at Dallas to support a series of coding camps for Dallas-area students.
“Students who are given early exposure to computer science have a significant advantage in driving future social and economic development,” said Cuban, a local businessman and investor. “I am proud to help UT Dallas grow the next generation of local entrepreneurs, inventors and business leaders.”
Although the Texas state curriculum for K-12 students contains basic STEM courses in math and science, many schools do not offer educational opportunities related to computer programming. The Center for Computer Science Education and Outreach (CCSEO) in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science aims to fill this gap through after-school camps within Title I elementary and middle schools in North Texas. These initiatives expose students to logical thinking and programming, with a specific emphasis on supporting schools with a high concentration of minority students underrepresented in STEM fields.
The University currently hosts programming sessions in 20 schools, reaching over 400 children. Cuban’s $50,000 commitment allows the program to reach an additional 2,500 students by defraying participation costs.
“We were already providing coding clubs at a reduced cost to Title I schools during the past few years,” said Dr. Jey Veerasamy, director of the CCSEO. “With Mark Cuban’s gift, we were able to make them free. More than 10 new schools came on board in the Dallas and Garland ISDs, which indicates that there is a real need for this kind of program, and that a significant percentage of Title I families cannot pay even the reduced fee.”
Coding camps open a horizon of new opportunities for students. “As technology continues to drive innovation, it becomes even more critical for today’s youth to be empowered with knowledge and skills aligned with the future,” said Dr. Janell Straach, senior lecturer in the Department of Computer Science and director of the Center for Engaging Women in Cyber Security.
“As a public university, we should do public good,” Veerasamy said. “Without these coding clubs, those students may never get introduced to the world of coding.”