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Deaf college students pursue computing at UW

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For nine weeks this summer, 20 deaf and hard-of-hearing students from across the nation are participating in the Summer Academy for Advancing Deaf & Hard of Hearing in Computing on the UW campus.

According to the program's Web site, the academy is designed for deaf, deaf-blind or hard-of-hearing students who are older than 18 and entering their freshman, sophomore or junior years of college. The class is targeted toward students with skills in math or science who are majoring in computing fields.

Students take one class from participating programs for credit, such as applied math or informatics, as well as group animation projects where they learn about technology and techniques used to make animated movies. By the end of the course on Aug. 17, the students will have produced an animated short.

"Students work individually on their projects during lab, and I'm here in case they have further questions," Michael Carson, a co-teacher for the academy, said.

Cesar Lopez, a student in the class, heard about the program from a teacher and decided to apply. He said he really enjoyed the animation portion of the program.

"We use a program called Maya to work on our lighting project," Lopez said, speaking through interpreter Chris Lyles.

Using a model bedroom on the computer, he demonstrated how moving light outside the room gradually hid a bed in the shadows until it appeared to be night.

Bobby Jackson, another student, said he found out about the class through a high school counselor.

"My favorite part of the program would have to be animation," Jackson said, also speaking through Lyles.

In addition to classes, students have the opportunity to tour local high-tech companies. Program Co-Director Richard Ladner said deaf or hard-of-hearing professionals also come speak to students about their experience obtaining advanced degrees and pursuing careers in computer science.

Patrick Vellia, said he prefers to work on discrete mathematics instead of animation.

Discrete mathematics is a basic math class about computing that covers things computer science majors are required to know, Ladner said.

Vellia found out about the academy through his counselor and the disability services at his school.

"I came to learn about mathematics for computer science, but I like the entire program," he said, speaking through Ladner.

The number of deaf or hard-of-hearing people with doctorate degrees in computer science remains very low, Ladner said.

"This is the first of at least two years [of funding] for the academy, and we hope to make the program grow," he said. "Success comes from two things: motivation and skill. This program provides both."

Reach reporter Chris Paredes at

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