CSE Kid's Day highlights computer science and engineering

PhD student Razieh Fathi works with students to program a dancing robot.

By Jane Stoyle Welch

An enthusiastic crowd of about 500 people filled Davis Hall for a night of fun and games designed to celebrate and promote computer science. Dubbed “CSE Kid’s Day” and hosted by UB’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE), the event featured robot demos, games designed to teach programming concepts and kid-friendly interactive projects led by UB students.

The most popular spot for families with younger children was the third floor of Davis Hall, where youngsters could program robots to do fun things like follow a line, navigate a maze or dance.

“We got the kids excited by showing them various ways to write code and program a computer. Getting one of our robots to dance to music was very exciting for the kids,” said Bob DeBortoli, a computer engineering major.

In another activity, kids played games that taught programming and computer science concepts without using a computer. Large squares were taped on the floor, and the children moved around the squares by following a series of prompts to sort numbers in increasing order.

Kid’s Day, which was part of UB’s celebration of National Computer Science Education Week, aims to get more students learning how to code, program, script, design and harness the power of computing to solve new challenges.

“I know that when I was growing up, I had no idea what computer science was all about,” said computer science major Meg Arnold. “By opening up our department to the community, we can educate kids about computer science and hopefully spark their interest.”

Arnold’s colleague, Gela Malek Pour, added: “We also hope to encourage more girls to explore careers in computer science by exposing them to the field at younger ages.”

The event was organized by the CSE Undergraduate Student Advisory Board, which included Arnold, DeBortoli, Malek Pour and Wendy Jansson, as well as Atri Rudra, associate professor of computer science and engineering.