Lamar University’s INSPIRED team will host several summer computing academies for middle and high school students this summer, beginning Saturday, May 17.

INSPIRED – Increasing Student Participation In Research Development – is supported by a National Science Foundation Broadening Participation in Computing grant. 

“The INSPIRED mission is to increase the number of women and minorities who earn computing degrees to help meet the demand for computing professionals in our high-tech society,” said Peggy Doerschuk, professor of computer science. “This is important because the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that computing careers will be among the fastest growing in this country.”

INSPIRED summer academies are designed to engage female and minority students in fun applications of computing, Doerschuk said. Two middle-school academies and one high school academy are planned for this summer. The support from the science foundation grant enables Lamar to host these academies at no charge to the student participants, she said.

Central Middle School and Harmony Science Academy are Lamar’s partners for the middle-school academies. On Saturday, May 17, INSPIRED will host 12 to 18 Central Middle School students for a one-day academy on the Lamar campus. 

On Saturday, May 31, the INSPIRED team will host a similar academy for 18 Harmony Science Academy students. 

The academies will be from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Department of Computer Science’s INSPIRED lab, Room 201 of the Maes Building.

The students will learn to program Lego NXT robots to navigate a maze. Students will also learn to create simple animations and to create their own web page. The students will work in teams of two or three, and each team will receive hands-on help from Lamar computer science students and faculty on the INSPIRED team. 

“Robotics, animation and webpage development are just a few fun applications of computer science that enrich our lives,” Doerschuk said. “Robots are used in search and rescue, delivering medicine in hospitals, vacuuming our homes, and cutting our lawns. Video games and movies use animation to provide entertainment, and the Web puts a world of information at our fingertips. These hands-on labs will give students a taste of computing in these areas.” 

The INSPIRED academy for high school students is scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. June 16 through 20. This academy will teach students to program IntelliBrain robots using Java, a popular mainstream programming language, in a series of hands-on labs. Students will also learn to create their own web page. No prior programming experience is necessary, Doerschuk said. Guest speakers from the computing industry will talk to the students about computing careers in different fields, such as medicine, business, and engineering, and about how to prepare for college.

The high school academy is open to the public and free of charge. Applications for the high school academy can be downloaded from the following website:

The academy will host no more than 18 students in order to provide individualized help to the student teams. Applications must be received by June 2 and will undergo a selection process. 

In addition to hosting summer academies on the Lamar campus, the INSPIRED team is available to visit middle schools and high schools in the Beaumont area. In these “Road Shows,” the INSPIRED team of Lamar computer science faculty members and students engage middle and high school students in hands-on demonstrations of robotics and other applications of computing. 

More information on INSPIRED, the Road Shows, and the summer academies is available on the INSPIRED website at, by email at, from Doerschuk at (409) 880-8782 or from Jane Liu, assistant professor of computer science, at (409) 880-7741.