School of Computing and Information Sciences promotes ingenuity, invention to students of all ages

Amazon, Google, Mattel, Manolo Blahnik, Nike.

What do all these companies have in common? They are started with vision, technology and very humble beginnings.

Advanced technology has enabled increasing numbers of entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses wherever they choose. FIU’s School of Computing and Information Sciences wants Miami to be the next high-tech hub. “Miami can draw a million people to a Deadmau5 concert,” says Steve Luis, the school’s director of IT and business operations. “But we also need to draw people to events that recognize our capacity to innovate technology, art and design. We certainly have the talent to make such an impact – FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing graduates a critical mass of professionals in this state — so Miami technology can and should be an inseparable part of the region’s ecosystem and reputation.”

STEM outreach activities that engage students are demonstrating that interest in technology and computer science is very high, Luis says. For example, the recent Miami Mini Maker Faire, coproduced by SCIS, drew nearly 4,000 attendees of all ages and more than 100 exhibitors. The Faire is held in creative communities around the world and is a celebration of imagination and innovation.

Charleotte Farolan, FIU CIS undergrad and Women in Computer Science president, assists children with their projects at the Miami Mini Maker Faire.

Charlotte Farolan, FIU CIS undergrad and Women in Computer Science president, assists children with their projects at the Miami Mini Maker Faire.

At the Faire, FIU Discovery Lab students Deon Wilkins and Fernando Campo presented the unmanned aerial vehicles developed in their lab; Charlotte Farolan, an undergraduate student in computer science and president of FIU Women in Computer Science, hosted a daylong soldering workshop where they taught hundreds of kids to assemble and solder a small robotic bug or a USB LED Flashlight; FIU CIS undergraduate student Diego Bracamonte worked with Microsoft to demonstrate 3D printing tools and integration; and FIU IEEE graduate advisor and engineering student Adam Manoussakis and members of the Miami Northwestern Bicycle Blenders demonstrated and distributed hundreds of human-powered smoothies.

“The purpose was to show what’s being ‘built in the garage,’ and how they use that technology along that journey,” Luis says.

With more than 200,000 software developers and IT computing jobs being advertised online, SCIS hopes more events like the Maker Faire will inspire more kids to choose careers in STEM. Research has shown that 5th grade may be the ideal time to convince kids of a career path. Or, if they don’t know exactly what they want to do when they’re 10, they at least form an opinion of what they might or can do. There is more to computer science than coding, Luis points out. “We want to show that you can turn a car into a fire-breathing dragon or create a new game rather than just buying one,” he says.

And maybe, by nurturing many new generations of computer savvy creative geniuses, the next technology breakthrough will begin here – in a Sweetwater garage.

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