Students from Cranston High School West and the Cranston Area Career and Technical Center were among the nearly 2000 students from all over Rhode Island who had the opportunity to attend the third annual Computer Science For Rhode Island (CS4RI) computer science summit at the University of Rhode Island’s Ryan Center in Kingston.
The full morning event featured three hours of hands-on computer science student presentations from middle school, high school, and college-level classes, as well as more than 100 exhibits and interactive activities provided by leading businesses in cybersecurity, computer science, and other STEAM-related industries.
The students had the opportunity to connect their classroom learning experiences to real-world applications and future career path options as they circulated through the presentations and events. Following lunch, they attended a panel of speaking presentations, featuring speakers from industry and community partners including the University of Rhode Island’s Dr. David Dooley, URI Computer Science professor Victor Fay-Wolf, RI Market Executive at Citizens Bank and Chair of the Rhode Island Board of Education’s Barbara S. Cottam, and keynote speaker Hemang Dave, Chief Innovation Officer of Global Technology Services for IBM North America.
Dooley recognized the University of Rhode Island as Rhode Island’s flagship research university leading the partnership for the state’s computer science initiative, and also recognized the other partners involved, including Rhode Island College, the Community College of Rhode Island, Johnson and Wales University, Brown University, New England Institute of Technology, Microsoft, Citizens Bank, IBM and the Microsoft TEALS program.
Cottam addressed the students and emphasized why computer science skills are so important for today’s students.
“Bankers and educators both agree that computer science is the skill of the future,” Cottam said. “The learning teaches you how to think,” she said, and noted that coding is the language of the future. She encouraged the students to save any business cards they received that day, remember the names of those they met, and to use them as networking opportunities in the future.
IBM’s Hermang Dave gave an informative and inspiring speech and talked about the impact that innovation and technology must have in order to matter. His presentation detailed current and future innovations that are impacting the world today and will be continuing to do so in the future, discussing innovations in artificial intelligence, personalization, and medical advancements.
He encouraged the students to remember that if something is too easy, it’s not impactful.
“Technology puts us out of our comfort zone,” he said. “Technology makes us think beyond business as usual. Always think differently. If it keeps you out of your comfort zone, then you’re doing something right.”
The Cranston students found the summit both engaging and beneficial.
“It was pretty cool, I'm not going to lie,” said Brandon Cummings. “It's cool seeing a lot of people in the same place with the same interests.”
Nikola Szymanska agreed and found the collaboration and sharing of ideas to be a key to the day’s success.
“It was helpful seeing all the ideas that can be expressed by coming together and sharing,” Syzmanska said.