Students in a room on laptops.

CSforPGH Mini-Grants Open Doors to Computer Science

Dr. Lisa Palmieri discusses when, how, and WHY to apply

There will be nothing small about the impact of our CSforPGH Mini-Grants! Created to improve K-12 computer science pedagogy and broaden access to computer science at home, the mini-grants will award up to $5,000 to establish new opportunities for out-of-school time (OST) organizations and formal educators at school districts in rural and urban areas.

“This grant is unique because learners must be able to boost their STEM & CS Learning at home in addition to at the organization,” said Dr. Lisa Palmieri, CSforPgh Working Group Lead, “This effort promotes cultural relevance and tinkering to build critical thinking, problem-solving, computational thinking, and coding skills.”

When Palmieri became a part of the Remake Learning network, she was the Director of Innovation and the Head of Computer Science at The Ellis School. Since then, she has been involved in several working groups over the years including efforts around digital badging, maker education, and personalized learning. As she gained experience, her passion for change grew.

“I became passionate about engaging underrepresented girls and people of color in computer science after working in industry for a decade and seeing little diversity,” said Palmieri.

When she started her career as a government contractor for a highly technical organization, Palmieri was one of three women in her department of more than 100.“I decided to return to school and work on my doctorate and focused on leadership and particularly technology,” she said, “I’ve seen more girls getting involved in CS programs around the region, but we have a lot of work to do to engage all youth, so they have awareness and opportunities for economic mobility with emerging AI, tech, robotics, and life sciences careers.”

Lisa sees the mini-grants as the start to a brighter future: “The mini-grants will allow learning to come alive as part of all aspects of a youth’s life – when and how they learn best and with guidance of supporting adults,” she said, “My hope is organizations develop fun and engaging projects, kits that incorporate project-based learning, and design with real world application.”

In alignment with Remake Learning’s mission to “ignite engaging, relevant, and equitable learning practices in support of young people navigating rapid social and technological change,” the CSforPGH Mini-Grant will prioritize proposals that: expand computer science to traditionally excluded groups such as girls, minorities, immigrants, or children with disabilities; experiment or innovate the teaching of computer science; enable collaboration between disciplines, schools, or entities; encourage learning through new media, play, and creation.

Funded by the generous support of BNY Mellon, CSforPGH Mini-Grants can be applied for by individuals or teams. Despite Governor Wolf’s commitment to expanding STEM and computer science learning through the ongoing PAsmart initiative, many schools still do not have designated computer science classes. Students of color, girls, and those with disabilities have even less access to computer science training.

“Innovation is about diversity and intentionally designing opportunities for people to collaborate and make things better,” said Palmieri, “Whether they take a computer science class in high school, attend a summer camp, or go to college for a CS-related major, all youth need to build these critical skills for the future.”

Now is the time to integrate computer science and the practical skills that it teaches in all facets of learning. Now is the time to get innovative. Now is the time to be creative.

Now is the time to take that chance. Learn more and apply for a CSforPGH Mini-Grant today!