The Governor’s School of Engineering and Technology (GSET) is a four week residential summer program that brings together some of New Jersey’s most talented high school students. At no cost to their families, students spend part of the summer following their junior year studying on the campus of the Rutgers University School of Engineering. The students take classes, go on field trips, and work in small groups of 3-5 students guided by a mentor to complete a capstone project. Students must be nominated by their high schools to attend the program, and it is very competitive to be accepted. For many students, the school is their first opportunity to collaborate with others with similar talent and motivation.
This was CCI’s fourth summer participating in GSET by leading a three-week series of classes on theoretical computer science, “The Math Behind the Machine”. Postdoc Grant Schoenebeck returned this summer to again lead the course which introduced the 18 participants to the field of theoretical computer science by exploring some of the greatest successes from the field.
This year’s course, building on previously versions by Vassilevska and Williams 2009, and Lee 2010 included topics such as algorithmic techniques, duality, NP-completeness, cryptography, learning theory, randomness and pseudorandomness, decidability, and communitcation complexity.
“The Math Behind the Machine” is designed to get students thinking like a computer scientist and also to introduce them to a body of knowledge that they otherwise would probably not see in before college. The hope is that this experience will encourage some of the participants to study theoretical computer science in college, a field that they may not otherwise even know about. The extremely positive responses of the students make us optimistic that this goal is being accomplished! Indeed GSET as a whole is very successful at encouraging students to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. According to alumni surveys, over 90% of GSET participants go on to STEM majors in college, and over half attend university at MIT, CMU, Stanford, or an Ivy League college.
A website for the course, including lecture notes, may be found at http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~gschoene/teaching/mathbehindmachine2012.html