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Institute for Women and Technology's Virtual Development Center


September 2000

CU-Boulder's Department of Computer Science has been selected to participate in the Institute for Women and Technology's (IWT) Virtual Development Center (VDC). The VDC is a network of college-based collaborative development centers with the dual goals of stimulating the participation of women in technology and increasing the positive impact of technology on the lives of women.

The first development centers were founded in 1999 at Purdue, Texas A&M, Santa Clara University, and MIT's FIRST/FAIHM program. The centers to be started this year will be located at Smith College, the University of Arizona, and CU.

The primary activity of CU's center will be an on-going project-based course. Project ideas will be generated in a workshop, held early in the course and facilitated by IWT staff members. Participants in the workshop will include technical and non-technical women from the Boulder community at large and representatives of local social service agencies, as well as the students enrolled in the course. The goal will be to find ideas for technical solutions to problems confronting the agencies. Over the course of one or more semesters, the students will work in groups to bring the ideas to product form with technical and non-technical faculty members and interested community members all serving as advisors.

The center will provide us with a much-needed mechanism to aid in the recruitment and retention of women in the study of computer science. Studies have found that women tend to link their interest in computer science to some other social function, such as enhancing medicine, while men usually focus their interest in computers on the machine itself. While the computer science major has traditionally emphasized software development and machine issues, the new course will allow students to apply concepts of information technology to solve problems of social import. In addition, we anticipate that many of the projects will admit a multimedia approach, and we hope that seeing computer science from a less technical side will increase its appeal to women outside of the Engineering College.

While the course will be open to both women and men, we anticipate a substantially female enrollment. The first offering of the course is planned for the Spring 2001 semester. According to the terms of the award, we have committed to offer the course for four semesters, but we hope that it will be sustainable after that time. Students will be encouraged to enroll and work on projects over the course of several semesters. The initial offering will be an undergraduate course.

Included with CU's VDC award is a $242,744 equipment grant from Hewlett-Packard. That equipment will be housed in a new teaching laboratory in the Engineering Center and in a smaller satellite laboratory to be located on the liberal arts side of campus. The lab section of the course will be taught in the former lab while the latter lab will provide a convenient location for non-engineering students to complete their coursework. We have also requested several laptops which will allow students to work in remote locations and will also aid them in transporting demo software to client agencies during consultations or group meetings off-site.

Financial support provided for the center is limited to the equipment grant. Useful donations would include the following:

  • Gifts of cash or supplies to aid in the long-term maintenance of the lab.

  • Software donations, especially

    • Adobe Photoshop (still photography, web-graphics) and GoLive (web editing/composing)
    • Macromedia Director (create interactive CD roms, bit mapped), Flash (vector-based web-authoring), and DreamWeaver (web editing/composing)
    • a 3D modeling package like 3D Studio Max, Macromedia Extreme 3D, or Infinity 3D
  • Hardware not included in the HP gift, especially digital video cameras, a projector, other hardware in support of multimedia applications.

  • Lab furniture, especially ergonomic chairs.

For more information about the Institute for Women and Technology and the Virtual Development Center, please see

See also:
Department of Computer Science
College of Engineering and Applied Science
University of Colorado Boulder
Boulder, CO 80309-0430 USA
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May 5, 2012 (13:46)