High school math and computer whizzes to compete at UHV, VC

Math and science students from area high schools soon will have the opportunity to compete for trophies, robots and scholarships.

Area teachers are urged to register teams of high school students by March 9 for the April 3 Math and Computer Science Awareness Day at the University of Houston-Victoria and Victoria College. The 17th annual event coincides with the nationally recognized Mathematics Awareness Month of April. The theme this year is “Mathematics, Statistics and the Data Deluge.”

The event will give high school students an opportunity to assess and evaluate their math and computer science strengths, said Alireza Tavakkoli, UHV assistant professor of computer science.

“It’s a day for these students interested in math and computer science to work and be around each other,” he said. “And, of course, it’s a great chance for students to come to our campuses and see what college is about.”

Students will participate in contests demonstrating how mathematics and statistics are tools for understanding and dealing with issues relating to the massive collection of data for marketing, scientific and other uses. Students also will eat pizza, play a Jeopardy-style game show dealing with math and computer science, and watch robotic demonstrations presented by high school students in UHV’s new after-school robotics research course.

A $20,000 grant from Alcoa Foundation funded the local Math and Computer Science Awareness Day, as well as a semester-long UHV research course about artificial intelligence and robotics.

This is the first year that the awareness day has been expanded with the creation of a longer-term robotics program, Tavakkoli said. Six of about 30 applicants from high schools in the region were accepted in December for the semester-long course, which began in January. He will be working with the students through August to finalize their robotics application projects and encouraging them to submit any significant findings to peer-reviewed academic journals.

The course gives students the academic research experience they need to get into a college academic research program more quickly than their peers, Tavakkoli said.

“By completing the robotics course, they will be head and shoulders above the rest going into college,” he said.

His high school robotics students will be presenting their accomplishments at the April 3 event, which Tavakkoli hopes to make an annual tradition assuming additional funding can be obtained to support the continuation of the course. This year’s Math and Computer Science Awareness Day will take place from 3 to 6 p.m.

“This is an incredible opportunity for teachers to join our university in encouraging young students to excel in these important subjects,” said Jeffrey Di Leo, dean of the UHV School of Arts and Sciences.

Teachers may register teams of up to four students per team at The first 76 students registered for the competitions will receive computer bags.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Paula Cobler