As the tech industry continues its rapid expansion, inclusion of women and individuals of color lags behind. At Rutgers, it's important to us to be part of the solution.

This fall, we've launched #RUniteCS, a volunteer outreach program to spark interest in computer science in middle school students - because once they hit high school, STEM's appeal plummets dramatically. In what we've termed "virtual classroom visits," passionate and talented undergrads host a video panel discussion where kids can learn how we got interested in tech and the many directions a career in CS can follow. We tell them about our favorite, often silly coding projects, and point them toward free resources they can use to get started. We make every effort to have a diverse group of panelists of each discussion, because we feel it's important to show these students someone in whom they can see themselves. Visits can range anywhere from ten minutes to a whole class period - classroom time is valuable, so it's always up to teachers to decide how much they'd like to use with us.

If you'd like to learn more about our outreach efforts or set up a virtual classroom visit for your class, you can reach us at rutgersusacs@gmail.com or tweet @rutgers_usacs with the hashtag #RUniteCS.

If you would like to extend this program to your college, please let us know at rutgersusacs@gmail.com. We would love to share our experiences to have a wider reach.

You can download a lesson plan here.


One thing that thought was really cool was that Sara wanted to be a teacher for awhile and then she took her first coding class and liked it. That's really cool because that is exactly how I have been thinking, I wanted to be a teacher but now I'm leaning towards computer science and engineering. Also I remember that Deep is a universal student. I remember that Lissete was a graduate from our High School. This video call was cool because it's crazy how we can all be connected just because of one thing, which of that is code, I think that that was one interesting time for me. - Aniyah, 6th grade

I think that the call was really fun. One thing I clearly remember in the call is Deep giving us advice about not giving up. He said that just because we didn't like it the first time, doesn't mean we won't like it if we try it again. Something that surprised me was that Lissette got interested in computers by playing different games on all sorts of websites. All in all, it was really interesting talking to these college students and I would be interested in doing a computer science class. - James, 6th grade

What surprised me is that Lissette went to our high school and took hard classes. I would think that people would take easy classes just to get through the semester. Also I can't believe that Sara and a group of coders are designing a project to deliver pizza to their door by pushing a button. I learned that I should take advantage of this class because when they were in middle school they didn't have this opportunity to code. So, I want to make the best of it. - Kera, 6th grade