Dr. Gillian Smith, Computer Science, investigates ways to make computing science meaningful for the broader public by working with African American quilters on a computational craft project.
To provide a better public understanding of computer science, Dr. Gillian Smith designed a series of workshops called Code Crafters, funded by NSF, to highlight the relationship between quilting and computer science to quilters. Dr. Smith has found that quilting can be used as a metaphor for computer science topics and ideas. However, it often does not fully convey what is most important to quilters about the craft: story, tradition, improvisation, playfulness, community, and charity. Though these themes are present in computer science projects, they are not necessarily present in how it is taught, nor are they central to the discipline.
For this project, Dr. Smith will bring together members of Worcester-area quilt guilds, especially a local African American quilting guild, with WPI computer science students to investigate new ways to teach and learn introductory computing. One of their main focuses is to re-center computing toward public interest and help computer science students see how members of the public, who have a depth of technical and mathematical skill via their craft, bring a new perspective to computer science.