Northeastern University Hosts Novel Video Game Designing Program for Middle School Students

January 7, 2008

Northeastern Students Teach and Mentor Middle Schoolers as Part of Unique Afterschool Program

Northeastern University’s College of Computer and Information Science (CCIS) has introduced “Bootstrap,” a novel after-school program aimed at introducing middle schoolers to entry-level programming under the mentorship of Northeastern students. Bootstrap has recently received $150,000 in funding from Microsoft.

Bootstrap offers middle schoolers a fun way to learn by enabling participants to create their own video games. The initiative was adapted by Northeastern program director, Emmanuel Schanzer and is based on the nationally recognized TeachScheme! programming and computing curriculum developed by Northeastern Trustee Professor Matthias Felleisen.

“This program is the first of its kind,” said Schanzer. “By giving children the opportunity to learn the basics of computer programming they are able to not only experience a possible college major or profession, but also expand their math and science skills.”

Bootstrap participants are members of Boston-based Citizen Schools, a program that operates a national network of apprenticeship curriculums for middle school students by connecting adult volunteers to young people in hands on learning projects. In line with Citizen School's mission, the 2007 Bootstrap program had the middle-schoolers teamed up with Northeastern student-teachers to learn to design and fully implement playable video games, as part of a ten-week afterschool program.

“I learned a lot of codes and computer programming,” said Abigail Ezedonmwen, a Bootstrap participant from the W.B. Rogers Middle School. “We used what we learned to make our own video games.”

“Coming here and learning the basics really helped,” added Bootstrap participant Gregory Nelson, also from the W.B. Rogers Middle School. “It’s cool because Microsoft makes my favorite games, too, and I really want to work for them when I’m older.”

Bootstrap was first offered in 2005 as an intensive one-week program through Northeastern’s Compass Computer Camps, taught by undergraduates with support from Schanzer. A year later, Schanzer developed a modified version of the curriculum that was offered as an after-school program. Bootstrap was piloted at two Boston-area schools. Microsoft’s “Partners in Learning” grant, which extends thru June 2008, will help the university to expand the successful program and fund a roll-out to Texas and California.

For more information on Bootstrap, please contact Samantha Fodrowski at 617-373-5427 or at s.fodrowski@neu.edu.

About Northeastern

Founded in 1898, Northeastern University is a private research university located in the heart of Boston.  Northeastern is a leader in interdisciplinary research, urban engagement, and the integration of classroom learning with real-world experience. The university’s distinctive cooperative education program, where students alternate semesters of full-time study with semesters of paid work in fields relevant to their professional interests and major, is one of the largest and most innovative in the world.  The University offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate and graduate programs leading to degrees through the doctorate in six undergraduate colleges, eight graduate schools, and two part-time divisions.  For more information, please visit www.northeastern.edu.

For more information, please contact Samantha Fodrowski at 617-373-5427 or at s.fodrowski@neu.edu.

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