The Volgenau School to Repeat Successful High School Program

Posted: October 2, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By David Driver

After a successful launch last spring, The Volgenau School of Information Technology and Engineering (IT&E) plans to again offer college credit to selected high school students in the spring 2007 semester.

Eight students, who were then juniors, from Thomas Jefferson (TJ) High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County did independent research projects in computer science and systems engineering, with guidance from Mason faculty members. The students spent about one day per week at the Fairfax Campus during the semester and earned one college credit.

TJ has a national reputation for attracting some of the top students in Northern Virginia. Some of their projects at Mason involved robotics, software engineering, research in wireless sensor networks, computer-based systems design, multiagent simulation and evolutionary computation.

“From my perspective, it went really well,” says Lloyd Griffiths, dean of IT&E. “We are trying to find a way to link with all (local) high schools, not just TJ. And we want to link in a meaningful way. Our local high schools need to know about us.”

Griffiths says Mason is already reaching out to Northern Virginia high schools, such as W.T. Woodson, Robinson and Chantilly, to attract students for the spring semester. E. Bernard White, IT&E associate dean for undergraduate studies, hopes to have 10 local high school juniors take part in the 2007 program. The application deadline is Oct. 15.

“We had excellent feedback (from TJ). We were surprised at the response.” He adds, “The faculty stepped up and participated. They are not being compensated for this.” Faculty members Sanjeev Setia, Sean Luke, Robert Simon, David Rine, Kathryn Laskey and Richard Evans worked with TJ students last spring.

Douglas Tyson, the assistant principal at TJ, hopes to send a new group of juniors to Mason.

“I think the students felt it was a major part of the recipe for success. The students found the partnership with Mason (one) that unlocked the door to a major league curriculum and instructional resources at a prestigious university,” says Tyson, who adds that TJ, a public school, does not have some of the resources needed for such projects due to budget constraints.

“All of our expectations were met,” says Griffiths, explaining that not only was the faculty happy with the program, but it also achieved the goal of having high school students visit the Fairfax Campus for reasons other than to attend concerts or athletic events.

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