Ga. Tech weaves new threads into computer science curriculum

With other schools facing falling enrollment, innovative program sees huge response from employers and students.

Attempting to answer the call to increase the number of students enrolling as computer science majors, Georgia Tech has announced a completely revamped program that will, hopefully, give the U.S. a leg up on the competition, reports Information Week.

The Threads program takes a personalized approach to making computer science more relevant relevant to student's professional aspirations. It appears that the plan is working as the program has had a 33 percent increase in enrollment in its first year of implementation, at a time when most comsci programs have been shrinking.

For freshmen students like Nikea Lynn Davis, Georgia Tech's threads were a big selling point. Davis, who wants a career that involves education, children, and computer research, has chosen threads in computers and people and internetworking. "I want to study how people use computers, how they find information using internetworking," she says.

Threads is based on the realization that most incoming freshman have no idea what area of computer science they want to pursue in their careers. The program combines traditional foundation courses in compsci with specialized subsets of the field, such as robotics or media.

In addition to choosing threads, students also choose from one of four roles within their chosen track: entrepreneur, inventor, communicator, or master practitioner. Students choose elective classes and extracurricular activities, such as work-study or internships, based on these roles. A student interested in computing research who'd like to be an inventor could pursue a summer internship working in a professor's lab.

The program is directly intended to create graduates who are better prepared for the demands of the high-tech work world. And the big guys are watching with interest.

"Georgia Tech's program is the most innovative approach to computer science that we've seen," says Stewart Tansley, program manager in external research and programs at Microsoft Research. In fact, Microsoft was so impressed with the threads curriculum that it has teamed up with Georgia Tech and women's school Bryn Mawr College to create a three-year robotics program that includes robotics software and $1 million in funding from Microsoft.

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