K-12 Outreach Programs

The Department of Computer Science in The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has a global reputation for developing revolutionary technology—where groundbreaking research addresses real-world problems. We take great pride in our role in educating computer scientists who change our world by doing things that were once thought impossible.

Computer science underpins just about every aspect of modern life. The arts, science, business, medicine, and engineering all benefit from the computational power, modeling, and thinking found in computer science. These skills are highly sought-after in industry and academia and result in many lucrative, impactful, and fulfilling career opportunities. However, being a computer scientist is rarely even considered by young people—especially girls and minorities—as they dream about what they want to be when they grow up. We invite you to help us change that.

Illinois Computer Science has developed a series of outreach programs targeted especially for our local community to raise awareness about and interest in computer science. We are looking for advocates, partners, and participants for our programs that will help inform K-12 educators and perspective students and their parents about the fascinating and fun applications of computer science. Please join us, help us spread the word, and support these upcoming activities:

ChicTech Visits

ChicTech Visits (pronounced “sheek-tek”) are led by members of the Women in Computer Science student club. An all-volunteer ChicTech team will travel to Illinois high schools to deliver a presentation to explain and demystify the field of computer science. The ChicTech team will give a glimpse into life as an Illinois CS student and explore the exciting and challenging career options open to graduates. The presentation also confronts the stereotypes of the male-dominated field and debunks myths, cites success stories, and shares personal experiences. To schedule a ChicTech visit, please email contact@illinoiswcs.org.

ChicTech Retreat

Led by the Women in Computer Science student club, ChicTech Retreat is a one day conference for high schoolers to get an introduction to technology and the culture of Illinois Computer Science. Topics are focused on women's impact on computing. Activities include technology workshops on Scratch, HTML, or JavaScript depending on experience level, and also include several social activities that foster networking and teamwork. The ChicTech Retreat is usually held each November, and all high schoolers are welcome to apply. Application information will be posted on the CS Outreach Calendar. You can also email questions to contact@illinoiswcs.org.

Girls Who Code

Illinois Computer Science hosts a chapter of Girls Who Code (https://publish.illinois.edu/girlswhocode), a club that allows 4th-12th grade girls to explore coding in a fun and friendly environment. The goal is to inspire, educate, and equip girls with the computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities. The Illinois Computer Science Girls Who Code club is now open and taking new members.  Deadline to register is February 4.  Register here.  If you have any questions, please email ccoleman@illinois.edu.

Illinois Computer Science Sail

Organized by Illinois Computer Science students and staff, Sail is a free, day-long showcase for high school students to learn about computer science in fun workshops, explore career opportunities, and take a campus tour and experience what it’s like to be a computer science student in the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois.

Illinois Computer Science Sail is held each April, and information will be posted on the CS Outreach Calendar. You can also email questions to cs-sail@lists.cs.illinois.edu.

NCWIT (National Center for Women & Information Technology) Aspirations in Computing Program

Illinois Computer Science established the Central Illinois Affiliate of the NCWIT's Aspirations in Computing. This program is a talent pipeline initiative to increase women’s meaningful participation in computing careers by providing encouragement, visibility, community, leadership opportunities, scholarships, and internships to high potential technically inclined young women. Applications for the NCWIT Aspirations Program open each September 1, and the recipients are recognized each April in conjunction with our Sail event. Information will be posted on the CS Outreach Calendar. 

4-H Computer Connections

By partnering with 4-H (4h.extension.illinois.edu), Illinois Computer Science reaches 1,000 middle school-age students statewide with easy-to-use computer programming modules based on the Scratch online programming environment.