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Program aims to draw Native American students into computer science

Daniel Monte, a Navajo who grew up on the Alamo Reservation near Magdalena, N.M., said he has been interested in computer science since the 10th grade, when he helped his school technologist repair the computers in his high school.



Daniel Monte, a Navajo who grew up on the Alamo Reservation near Magdalena, N.M., is a freshman computer science major at New Mexico State University. He said the university's summertime Native American Computer Science Program gave him a sense of the c..

A trip to Las Cruces, where in 1999 he spent three weeks in the Native American Computer Science Program at New Mexico State University, gave him a sense of what the possibilities in the field were, he said.

Today he is a freshman in New Mexico State's computer science program, planning a career as a programmer, or maybe a video game designer, he said.

"The benefit of the Native American computer science program was that I got to look at the campus and what it had to offer. I liked the facilities and I liked the professors. They were very helpful and knew what they were talking about," he said.

The Native American Computer Science Program is a three-week program in which students live on the New Mexico State campus. They attend a number of social and cultural activities and take field trips, besides taking classes in math, computer science and Web page design, said program coordinator Alicia Morales.

The program is funded by the National Science Foundation to encourage Native American students to earn degrees in computer science. For the students the program is free. Room, board and all scheduled activities are paid for through a grant from the NSF. Transportation to and from Las Cruces can be provided, if necessary.

This year's program will run from July 20 to Aug. 10, Morales said.

To apply, students must be high school sophomores, juniors or seniors and belong to a recognized Native American tribe, Morales said.

Monte said the program included a lot of hands-on activity.

"We studied Visual Basic programming, which is the program they use to design games. We designed a ball and paddle game, which was pretty simple," he said.

One of this year's activities will involve assembling and programming small robots that navigate using different types of sensors. Assembling the robots and writing the programs that make them move will give the students more immediate feedback than merely sitting in front of a screen looking at numbers all day, Morales said.

To get more information about the camp or to request an application, those interested should contact Morales at (505) 642-3756 or amorales@cs.nmsu.edu.

Photo is available at http://ucommphoto.nmsu.edu/newsphoto/monte_daniel.jpg.
CUTLINE: Daniel Monte, a Navajo who grew up on the Alamo Reservation near Magdalena, N.M., is a freshman computer science major at New Mexico State University. He said the university's summertime Native American Computer Science Program gave him a sense of the career possibilities in the field. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Jack King
March 20, 2002