How to Do a Computer Science Open House

Like many of you I wanted to hold a Computer Science Open House during CSEd Week in December to showcase the work of my students and to educate parents, administrators and other guests about computer science. I utilized my Computer Science Club to organize and host the event which, including 20 club members had over 75 attend. I was very happy with how the event turned out and it did not take a huge effort on my part.
The first thing my CS Club members did was to identify what they wanted to showcase. Their list included:

  • Cisco Binary Game for guests to play
  • Scratch games and stories written by students
  • Java games and programs written by students
  • CyberCIEGE (gaming environment that teaches cyber security)
  • CTeLearning DarkBasic video games by students
  • AppInventor apps written by students
  • Make a Network Cable (yep, they wanted to crimp their own network cable)
  • Trophies and awards from competitions
  • NCWIT winner and Google CSSI participants
  • Now that we knew the what, my students mapped each to specific computers and locations in my lab and the lab next door. Club members then divided themselves into small groups to take care of the various tasks needed to make the event happen such as, develop an invitation to be sent via email, develop a list of refreshments to provide, make colorful page-sized labels to place at each location explaining what guests were seeing/doing, and a flier that was placed in every intermediate, middle, ninth and high school campuses in the district advertizing the event. They also updated an existing PowerPoint presentation that defined computer science, showed statistics on the shortage of computing majors for the number of jobs openings, described computer science courses offered in the district and highlighted successes and achievements of my students.
    The invitation was created as a PowerPoint slide that I saved as a PDF file. I emailed the PDF invitation file as an attachment to:

  • parents of all my students (done through our grade book software)
  • faculty and staff at my high school
  • district superintendent, cabinet members and public information officer
  • district technology and secondary curriculum directors
  • school board president and members
  • college computer science professors (local contacts I made through CSTA)
  • local newspaper editor
  • local city councilmen and state representative and senator (district public information officer assisted to find these)
  • As I said, CS Club members were the hosts and therefore were required to attend. They wore their club t-shirts and were expected to hang out at the various stations to answer questions and explain what guests were seeing. Several were assigned to be photographers and several others were assigned to man the refreshment tables outside the classrooms. We served several finger foods along with bottled water and lemonade to drink. We also had a sheet cake with “Happy Birthday Ada and Grace” written on it. One trip to Costco was all it took for all of the refreshments. I made a PowerPoint slide for each lady with their name and accomplishments listed that we taped to the wall above the cake. I also put a framed picture of each lady on the table as decoration. Some club members were also assigned to clean up at the end of the event.
    During the open house, I watched my students enthusiastically show programs they wrote to their parents. I heard my students describe to the district superintendent the design process they went through to come up with their application of “intelligent fabrics” that took second place in a state-wide competition. I smiled as my students demonstrated to the district technology director how CyberCIEGE uses gaming to teach cyber security. And it thrilled me to see my students comfortably answering questions from college computer science professors about what they had learned and what their future plans were regarding computer science.
    If you have not held a computer science open house I strongly encourage it. The kids really take ownership of it. The cost is minimal; mostly for the food and the positive press your students and your program gets makes it well worth it.
    Gerri Lynne Ryan
    CSTA Leadership Cohort Member
    North Crowley High School
    Fort Worth, TX