Do contests draw students into majors?
This is an honest question: Do contests help draw students into majors? DARPA is betting big money that TopCoder can draw more students into computer science. Does that work? Do contests draw in more students, in terms of raw numbers and/or in terms of a broader diversity of students than are otherwise finding themselves in the major? The question is broader than CS, since other fields use contests to engage students. Do they work? Do cooking contests draw more students into cooking schools? Do engineering contests (like “build a bridge with toothpicks” or “build an egg support system”) draw more students into engineering?
I’ve done work in collaborative learning, but not in competition as a motivator. I’m wondering what the research basis is for hoping that this is $5.57M well spent.
To boost computer science education and help middle and high school students strengthen their science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills before they enter college and the workforce, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded TopCoder a $5.57 million contract to develop a new virtual community featuring competitions and educational resources.
TopCoder is a worldwide software development community known for its computer coding contests. DARPA representatives said they hope TopCoder’s new virtual community, focusing on computer science education, will entice students in grades 6-12 to pursue a computer science degree or other STEM-related fields.
There has been a significant decline in the number of students graduating with a computer science degree, said DARPA program manager Melanie Dumas—including a 70-percent reduction in students pursuing the field since its 2001 peak.
“We’re not graduating enough people to fill these spots,” said Dumas. “We’re graduating on the order of 15,000 students a year, and we need 45,000 students a year.”