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Inaugural event will be held Dec. 11 at DPI to motivate and inspire students to study CS in Illinois

The Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) will welcome Chicago public high school students and their families to the first Computer Science Opportunity Fair on Saturday, Dec. 11 from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at its office at 200 S. Wacker Drive.

The event is being held in partnership with the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) College of Engineering, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Grainger College of Engineering, and Wilbur Wright College – City Colleges of Chicago’s Center of Excellence for Engineering and Computer Science. The schools will provide more information about their computer science programs and how this field can lead to dynamic and high-paying job opportunities in Chicago.

Other partners include: Break Through Tech and CHANCE (both based at UIC), Chicago Pre-College Science and Engineering Program, Code Nation, Everyone Can Code, Illinois Science & Technology Coalition, the National Society of Black Engineers – Chicago Professionals, One Summer Chicago, and ProjectSYNCERE, which all will share information about their computing and tech-focused programming designed for Chicago-area youth.

The event will feature breakout sessions from each participating university, networking, and a panel discussion among current students, recent alumni, and leaders in Chicago’s tech community.

“Computing is the language of business, necessary for solving problems and innovating across every sector of our economy,” said Mark Harris, director of the Pritzker Tech Talent Labs Community Education unit at DPI. “We want to inspire more Chicago-area high school students to pursue this field and connect them to some of our top CS programs in the state. We look forward to growing this event every year to further our mission to make Chicago’s tech workforce the most inclusive in the nation.”

“We are committed to ensuring that a career in technology is within reach to anyone pursuing computing, data science, and other tech disciplines at UIC,” said Robert Sloan, head of UIC’s computer science department. “Beyond research and academic opportunities in our top ranked and growing program, our students benefit from the unique resources made available by UIC partners and programs, such as Break Through Tech and CHANCE, which are dedicated to advancing gender and racial equity in our classrooms and in the tech workforce.”

“Illinois Computer Science offers a breadth of CS topics and applications unmatched almost anywhere. With our groundbreaking CS+X blended degree programs, our 14 undergraduate CS degrees provide rigorous, in-depth training, and access to cutting-edge courses taught by leading experts,” said Kortney Jones, assistant director for new student programs at UIUC’s Grainger College of Engineering. “This event will be a great opportunity to connect with students that have an interest in CS and looking to learn about how we prepare students in the classroom to address real-world problems through our hands-on curriculum.”

“Wright College has been focused on providing essential math skills, mentoring and one-on-one holistic and programming support to increase the transfer of students to four-year institutions to pursue and complete CS and engineering bachelor’s degrees within a reasonable time,” said Doris Espiritu, executive director, engineering program at Wright College. “This event will provide a wonderful opportunity to talk to students about studying computing and its path into finding success in the tech economy.”

Computing-related jobs make up roughly half of all STEM jobs in Illinois—three times more than any other STEM field. Computing also represents the top source of new wages in the economy. The COVID-19 crisis has illuminated the need for and resiliency of these jobs.

Black and Latinx workers make up just 12% of Chicago’s tech workforce overall. In 2019, only 14% of computer and data science graduates statewide were Black or Latinx.

Register for the event at Space is limited. Face masks are required.

The CS Fair is expected to be an annual event that will bring in additional universities and partners to provide college and career inspiration for public high school students to study computer science in Illinois.

This program builds on existing efforts from DPI and its partners to cultivate a more diverse, homegrown computing pipeline, including DPI and UIC CHANCE’s Digital Scholars summer program.