ETR Associates Awarded National Science Foundation Computer Game Design Grant

Dr. Jill Denner was recently awarded a professional development research grant by the National Science Foundation for a 2-year project titled Computer Game Design: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Addressing Underrepresentation in Computing. Dr. Denner will partner with University of California Santa Cruz Associate Professors of Computer Science, Michael Mateas and Noah Wardrip-Fruin.

The objective of the grant is to increase diversity in computing fields by working across disciplines to engage a broader group of students in computational thinking during middle school. Dr. Denner will work closely with faculty members and students from the University of California Santa Cruz computer science department's game design labs, and take undergraduate and graduate level courses in order to understand how to use her expertise to help computer scientists make better game authoring tools, as well as to learn more about computer science concepts and how computer scientists think. In addition, the project will focus on two research questions: 1. How can we strengthen or create game-authoring tools that will truly engage middle school students in computational thinking? 2. Is a game-authoring tool that allows students to create characters, narrative and dynamic relationships more engaging for underrepresented students than a tool without these features? The integration of social, cognitive and technical aspects of what motivates adolescents to connect to computing has the potential to influence the level of participation of females and underrepresented minorities.

About Dr. Jill Denner: Jill Denner does applied research at ETR Associates, with a focus on increasing the number of women and underrepresented minorities in computing. She has developed several after-school programs and her research on these programs has contributed to an understanding of effective strategies for promoting youth leadership, building youth-adult partnerships, increasing girls' confidence and capacity to produce technology, and engaging girls in information technology. Dr. Denner has a PhD in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a B.A in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

For more information on Computer Game Design: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Addressing Underrepresentation in Computing, please contact Dr. Jill Denner at

For more information on ETR Associates, please visit or contact Matt McDowell at

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