The Community College of Allegheny County provides a supportive and transformative learning environment that prepares graduates to meet critical needs in the region’s workforce.
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create vital connections between the college and the wider community
to ensure the ongoing viability of the college.
11-01-2010 -- CCAC and CMU grant partnership transitions computer programming courses
PITTSBURGH-The Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) and
the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science recently entered the
second year of a three-year National Science Foundation grant.
The grant allows CCAC and CMU students to engage in advanced
computer programming courses, but its main focus is broadening
computer information technology within community colleges across
The program, Alice 3, is the latest version of an innovative
software environment designed to make computer programming less
challenging and more enjoyable for students to learn. Alice
is the brainchild of the late Randy Pausch, a CMU computer science
professor who became famous for his life-affirming "Last
Lecture." His goal was to make computer programming easier
for students to learn. Alice 3 allows beginners to use a
simple drag-and-drop interface to create 3-D computer
animations. Unlike previous versions of Alice, this version
offers advanced students the chance to create programs by writing
with Java, the most popular programming language.
CCAC faculty Don Smith and Eileen Wrigley are collaborating with
Wanda Dann and Don Slater, members of the Alice Project at Carnegie
Mellon University, to improve first-year retention rates in
computer science and information technology programs. Smith and
Wrigley are applying their expertise in teaching community college
students to develop curricular and instructional
Through the $338,083 grant, CCAC has introduced a course using
Alice 3 that features the fundamentals of programming using 3-D
animation. The objective is to get non-computer information
technology (CIT) students more interested in computer programming,
and to better prepare CIT majors for the advanced course featuring
Java. CCAC is one of three total community colleges
participating in the grant. The others are Camden Community
College in Camden, NJ, and Collin Community College in Dallas,
Dann, a former community college professor, explains what
prompted this grant to encompass community colleges: "I am very
much aware that more than 50% of students in the USA who are
enrolled in post-secondary education are in community colleges,"
she says. "Community colleges, therefore, play a significant role
in preparing our students to participate successfully in a global
Two current CCAC students who have used Alice this semester,
Ariel Gelman and Carrie Piotrowski, have benefitted from the
program. "I like that Alice 3 has given me the necessary
building blocks to work with a programming language like Java."
Gelman explains. She believes that Alice 3 and future
versions will help students succeed in refining their programming
Piotrowski says that Alice helped her to visualize in small
steps. She recalls her favorite assignment using Alice was
one in which she had to use the drag-and-drop method to bake a
cake. "That was a lot of fun because I got to be really
creative with making objects do things." she says. Both
students agree that the Alice program is a great tool to help
introduce people into computer programming.
Smith hopes the grant will continue to improve computer
programming success rates: "CCAC is pioneering the use of Alice 3
in community colleges."
About CCACThe Community College of Allegheny County is the largest
institution of postsecondary higher education in Pennsylvania. The
college serves 30,000 credit students through 170 degree and
certificate programs and offers thousands of lifelong learning
non-credit and workforce development courses to 35,000 students
annually. Incorporating a learning-centered environment committed
to the future of the region, CCAC continues to expand its reach
through innovative programming and accessible instruction offered
via convenient day, evening, weekend and online courses. With four
campuses and six centers serving Allegheny County and surrounding
communities, CCAC endeavors to fulfill its mission to provide
affordable access to quality education and offer a dynamic, diverse
and supportive learning environment that prepares the region's
residents for academic, professional and personal success in our
changing global society.