Patricia Wachholz (left), AASU dean of the College of Education; Camille Russo, regional manager for AT&T Georgia, Linda Bleicken, AASU president; and Wendy Marshall, director of the AASU Educational Technology Center.

AT&T Grants $75,000 to AASU Foundation

(October 29, 2009) The Armstrong Atlantic State University (AASU) Foundation has been awarded a $75,000 grant from the AT&T Foundation, the philanthropic arm of AT&T, to support "Let the Games Begin," a two-year outreach program designed to help 60 at-risk high school students in Chatham County develop introductory computer programming skills.

The pilot program is a collaborative project involving AASU's College of Education and Educational Technology Center (ETC) and Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools' Woodville-Tompkins Technical and Career Institute. The project will engage students transitioning from ninth to 10th grade. Participating students will attend a four-day camp prior to the beginning of the school term, during the summer or winter break, to introduce them to the program. In addition, they will attend classes two Saturdays per month during each school term.

The Woodville Technical and Career Institute is a "shared center" offering high school students hands-on experiences and allowing them to acquire entry-level workplace skills in their chosen career pathways, while they continue to attend their home schools.

"Let the Games Begin" will teach introductory computer programming using Alice, free educational software provided by Carnegie Mellon University and used to teach programming in a 3D environment. The software is designed to be a student's first exposure to programming, allowing them to learn the fundamental concepts as they create animated movies and simple video games.

"Among the goals for students participating in the project are better grades and increased school attendance in addition to improved student discipline," said Patricia Wachholz, AASU dean of the College of Education. The project will also provide student-to-student mentoring and a support group that includes university faculty and highly qualified in-service teachers for the duration of the program.

"Students at this age have a high level of interest in video games," said Wendy Marshall, director of AASU's ETC. "This project will provide students a common group experience that will help them form additional bonds and advance toward high school graduation." AASU's ETC serves the counties in the Savannah coastal area and is one of 13 regional centers in the state that provide instructional and technical training and assistance for all Georgia school systems.

"This collaboration with AASU and Woodville-Tompkins will be a benefit to students in Savannah as we begin to provide teaching in computer science by way of gaming," said Derrick Muhammad, administrator for Woodville-Tompkins.

Camille Russo, regional manager for AT&T Georgia, said, "We are committed to strengthening our communities by supporting underserved populations and promoting education programs that create economic opportunity. Companies like AT&T are able to invest in key educational initiatives because of the public policy positions that our Legislature takes on business issues. I would like to commend the entire Savannah legislative delegation for helping us create an environment that recognizes the importance of investing in our communities and education."