Society is undergoing a rapid digital transformation. Smart technologies have become more and more interwoven with daily life. It is thus crucial to have a certain level of understanding of how to use the technology confidently, safely, and securely. However, a deeper understanding of the inner workings of the devices is also needed to discover the potential and possible challenges of these new technologies and to meet different opportunities in the job market. Although the employment rate in the digital sector is rising, there is still a huge lack of specialists and a strong gender imbalance. Consequently, it is important to prepare the public and, in particular, teenagers by teaching them the necessary skills.
The above-mentioned digital transformation is grounded in the thriving research area of computer science. The University of Luxembourg (UL) has recognized the importance of the discipline by making it one of its focus areas.
In recent years, new study programmes have been developed and research on these topics has been intensified. However, computer science is not yet part of the general high-school curriculum and the number of specialised teachers is still relatively low.
The Ministry of Education, Children, and Youth of Luxembourg (MEN) and the UL have recently started initiatives to address this deficit: a pilot project to introduce “Digital Sciences” in the schools’ curriculum and a MSc in Secondary Education in Computer Science have been created. To add to and complement these initiatives, the Scienteens Lab (the research lab for teenagers at the UL) and the Department of Computer Science (DCS) of the Faculty of Science, Technology, and Medicine seek support to launch a comprehensive outreach programme in computer science: Become a Computer Scientist – BeCoS.
BeCoS aims to (1) communicate and discuss computer science topics with teenagers and their families, while showcasing the latest research done in Luxembourg; (2) to develop computer science skills in the target groups, with a special focus on girls and young women, and inspire teenagers to learn and explore this discipline; and (3) to promote career options in computer science. To achieve these objectives, an extensive programme will be developed, comprising of six initiatives, all linked to the research at the UL. Hands-on workshops for high-school classes exploring different aspects of computer science will be created.
Teacher trainings targeting all teachers, including non-computer science teachers, will be held to encourage the implementation of computer science in a classroom setting. A platform directed at girls and young women will be established to provide them a dedicated space to explore computer science and to create a sense of community. Teenagers will also get the possibility to ask researchers questions related to computer science, encouraging the dialogue between these two groups. A further initiative is aimed at parents to promote the dialogue between parents and researchers, fostering a discussion on ICT-related parenting issues. Finally, an exhibition space will be created, where the public can discover and interact with various applications of artificial intelligence.
The Scienteens Lab has a proven track record in promoting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to high-school students, by bridging the gap between high schools and the university. It has successfully created interactive workshops in mathematics, physics, and biology, and has established effective collaborations with the MEN. Through BeCoS, it will expand its area of action by partnering with the researchers of the DCS, specifically the AI Robolab and the Interdisciplinary Lab for Intelligent and Adaptive Systems, to create an innovative programme to introduce computer science into the Scienteens Lab’s catalogue. Finally, the project enables to expand the target group of the Scienteens Lab to younger high-school students and parents.