A $1 million grant of Fujitsu technology and services to Virginia Tech's College of Engineering will assist in the college's creation of "digital opportunities" for underserved students, as well as pre-college students interested in studying math, science or engineering at Virginia Tech.

Glenda Scales, associate dean of distance learning and computing, and Bevlee Watford, associate dean for academic affairs and the director of Virginia Tech’s Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity (CEED), submitted the proposal to the independent third party consulting firm managing the technology grant program.

Scales and Watford successfully proposed that the technology grant would allow Virginia Tech to provide one-on-one utilization of technology for students participating in summer pre-college and pre-freshman academic enrichment programs. When combined with the wireless services provided within college of engineering facilities, any available educational space can become a computer laboratory, complete with internet access as well as access to engineering instructional software.

The technology grant provides the college with 308 Tablet PCs, digital cameras, and peripherals such as projectors, printers, and scanners. Some 150 of the Tablet PCs were used with the college’s residential programs and summer camps. During the academic year the Tablet PCs are available to the CEED office for outreach activities conducted by undergraduate students to pre-college students, as well as loaner computers for students who are initially unable to purchase a computer. The academic departments will also have access to Tablet PCs during the academic year in order to support underserved students in their respective departments.

Watford, who has directed the pre-college engineering academic programs since 1992, and Scales, proposed the college would partner with Peter Lewis, founder and CEO of the Apple Ridge Farm of Copper Hill, Va., whose mission is to provide outdoor experiences and academic programs for inner city and at-risk youth. The technology grant is allowing these students access to technologically advanced equipment and instruction that will help to eliminate the “digital divide,” Scales said.

With this technology grant, Scales and Watford hope to provide young learners with an “increase in technology literacy, allow hands-on and interactive theme based activities, and acquire basic skills about computers.”

The grant will also enhance Virginia Tech’s well-established CEED program, providing summer pre-college academic enrichment experiences for under-served students since 1992. The grant provides CEED with one-on-one ownership for the duration of the camp, facilitating the creation of a mobile tablet PC computer lab that will enable its students to work in a more collaborative learning environment.

CEED programs include C-Tech2, a two-week summer camp targeting high school girls, and Imagination, a one week science and math camp for rising seventh and eighth graders in the New River and Roanoke area.

CEED and Virginia Tech’s National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) also offer a Pre-College Initiative (PCI) event, providing high school students with an overnight visit to campus in the fall and additional Saturday programs scattered throughout the academic year. These students participate in a variety of activities, and with the availability of the tablet technology on an individual basis, they will be able to electronically store and retrieve the work they produce from each visit. Some 120 targeted students participate in this program.

The College of Engineering is known for its leadership role in personal computing. In 1984, it became the first large public college of engineering to require entering freshmen to own a PC. Over the next two decades, it continually upgraded its requirements, and most recently required its entering class to own a Tablet PC.

With its rich history in the integration of computers in its coursework, the college is well-positioned to sustain the $1million infusion of new computer equipment. In addition to its existing information technology (IT) resources, it also offers several resources to students. One is a SoftWare Assistance Triage (SWAT) Team, assisting undergraduates with software and hardware installation and issues. The second is a Student Technology Council, a group of students that review hardware and software in Beta testing and assist with freshmen orientation.

It is important that the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech continue to provide high-quality learning environments for our students. Whether students are visiting for several weeks during the summer, or attending VT for their entire undergraduate experience, our goal is to provide stimulating instructional content supported by state-of-the-art learning spaces. This initiative will assist with providing digital opportunities for underserved students,” Watford and Scales said.

A $1 million grant of Fujitsu technology and services to Virginia Tech's College of Engineering will provide 308 Tablet PCs, digital cameras, and other items to the college. Engineering Associate Deans Glenda Scales and Bevlee Watford secured the grant that will also assist in the college's creation of "digital opportunities" for underserved students.