iDEW, which stands for Informatics Diversity-Enhanced Workforce, won the Tech Educator of the Year award during TechPoint’s 19th annual Mira Awards gala honoring the best of tech in Indiana. iDEW is a program of the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI in downtown Indianapolis.
iDEW is on a mission is to increase the number and diversity of high school students that pursue degrees and careers in computing and information technology — especially among groups underrepresented in technology, such as females, racial minorities and students from low-income families. The workforce development initiative is led by the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing (SoIC) at IUPUI in partnership with high schools, businesses, and community organizations in central Indiana.
The Mira Awards judges believe iDEW is solving for an urgent technology industry need with a practical, hands-on approach to filling the talent pipeline with students who know how to design and build technologies and have a sense of belonging to the tech community, while also ensuring that the Indy tech community will meet (and perhaps, exceed) the diverse gender, racial and socio-economical percentage makeup of the Greater Indianapolis area in the future. (iDEW’s current enrollment is 80 percent underrepresented minorities and 32 percent female.)
In each semester-long Computing by Design (CxD) course, students collaborate in small teams on a project to create a computing solution to a real-world challenge. The teams apply a user-centered design process to discover and define a problem, design and code a solution, and evaluate and improve their solution. Each project culminates with a public presentation and demonstration of the solutions.
iDEW launched in the 2015-2016 school year with three class sections totaling 70 students across three Indianapolis high schools: Arsenal Technical HS, Providence Cristo Rey HS, and Pike HS. Now in its third school year, the program added a second full-time iDEW educator and expanded to 14 class sections enrolling over 250 students at four high schools in 2017, (adding Northwest HS), which includes cohorts in their first, second or third year of courses. To date, over 400 students have completed iDEW courses. The initiative’s success in 2017, has prompted the hiring of a third full-time educator and further expansion to an additional three high schools this year.
The judges were impressed by iDEW’s holistic nature, rapid growth and high volume of student exposure to computer science and software development, as well as to advanced technologies like mobile programming languages, robotics, and Internet of things (IoT) applications. In its earliest results, 19 iDEW students have enrolled in the School of Informatics and Computing for the fall semester.
The Mira Awards judges also appreciate the iDew curriculum being focused on a no judgement learning environment that reinforces provable skills and builds confidence. Another critical component of the iDEW program are wraparound services that provide iDEW students with special events and opportunities, such as: classroom visitors from tech companies, field trips to colleges and tech companies, summer workshops, IT certification training, internships, and college scholarships.
Susan Reagin, Arsenal Technical HS teacher, provided this feedback on her experience teaching iDEW courses: “I have taught in multiple school districts, and this experience has been the most engaging and life-changing curriculum I have ever witnessed. I have truly enjoyed watching my students grow not only in their coding skills but in their self-confidence, problem-solving, and group collaboration skills.”
Cheick Diallo, 2017 graduate of Providence Cristo Rey HS, gave this response when asked how his iDEW classes differed from his other classes: “iDEW allowed me to be innovative — and to provide and create solutions that could actually be implemented in today’s world. The program changed my attitude toward technology and allowed me to see how much it impacts our lives. iDEW pushed me out of my comfort zone. After going through the courses, I noticed how much I had grown. The iDEW classes also showed me that I am more creative and driven than I thought. I benefited in ways that were beyond the technical skills. I was challenged to have an innovative mindset and to plan and execute solutions to problems.”
TechPoint, the growth initiative for Indiana’s tech ecosystem, honored the successes and innovation of Indiana companies, entrepreneurs, educators, and other leaders at The JW Marriott Indianapolis during the 19th annual Mira Awards gala presented by Angie’s List, Infosys, and Salesforce.
A total of 15 award winners and two honorable mentions were chosen from the 100+ outstanding companies, organizations, and individuals who were selected as nominees this year out of the 205 applications received highlighting achievements during the 2017 calendar year.
Fifty-two independent, volunteer judges spent more than 850 total hours reviewing and ranking applications, interviewing nominees, and selecting this year’s winners. Judges included company founders, CEOs and presidents; CTOs, CIOs and software developers; professors and chancellors from Indiana universities; design, human resources and sales professionals, and a variety of other subject matter experts.
The Mira Awards are named after the first of the brilliant variable stars to be discovered – the Mira Star. It is also the Latin root meaning “worthy of admiration, wonderful, marvelous.” The awards represent the best of tech in Indiana each year.