WFU Gives Minority Campers Computing, Research Skills

Wake Forest University will put 30 high schoolers on the World Wide Web during a two-week summer camp in which faculty will train students to use IBM ThinkPad notebook computers to create personal web pages and use the machines to conduct experiments in biology, chemistry, physics, math and computer science.

The camp, from July 21-Aug. 1, is part of a $2.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation to the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools to boost minority enrollment in science and math courses.

Camp director Robert Swofford, a Wake Forest chemistry professor, said that 150 students applied for the 30 slots available to rising 10th and 11th graders. Campers come from 10 different high schools.

Wake Forest computer technicians will train students to use the ThinkPads during the camp’s first week. Campers will then use the technology in laboratory experiments they will showcase in an exhibition Aug. 1. The computers, among the 100 ThinkPads Wake Forest sold to the school system when faculty updated to newer models, will be theirs to use for a year.

Wake Forest is also posting students’ home pages on the university’s computer system at and providing students with Internet access and e-mail accounts for one year through IBM Global Network (IGN). IGN is the company Wake Forest uses to provide off-campus Internet service and access. “We will also be hosting a listserver for the students, an e-mail bulletin board that will allow them to broadcast e-mail messages to the entire group,” Swofford said.

“That way, they will be able to maintain contact with their fellow students after the camp is over,” he said. “We certainly recognize that in two weeks of summer camp, there are limits to the amount of knowledge students can acquire, but our main goal is to show students the excitement of working with new technology and using it to learn about science and math.

“If students feel good about what they’ve learned, we hope that will make them less intimidated by the advanced science courses in their schools and more willing to sign up. These are also the kinds of skills that will serve them well no matter what career they choose.”

Wake Forest has received national recognition for its use of computer technology to enrich undergraduate education, including a recent listing by Yahoo! Internet Life magazine as the nation’s 33rd most-wired school in its first list of “America’s 100 Most Wired Colleges.”

Begun in 1996, the Wake Forest Undergraduate Plan provides incoming freshmen with ThinkPads to access the campus computer network and Internet from practically any location. The plan also adds new faculty, and improves analytical and critical thinking skills through specially designed seminars for freshmen.

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