President Obama Honors One of Atlanta’s Own with Early Career Award

Spelman’s Jakita O. Thomas will be Awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers by The White House
By: Jakita O. Thomas
 
 
Jakita O. Thomas, Ph.D. | Asst. Professor Spelman College
Jakita O. Thomas, Ph.D. | Asst. Professor Spelman College
 
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ATLANTA - March 10, 2016 - PRLog -- Jakita O. Thomas, Ph.D. is no stranger to being recognized for her efforts in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). A Spelman Graduate, she is the recipient of the National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award (2012 - 2017), as well as both the Spelman College Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching (2013) and the Spelman College Presidential Award for Scholarly Achievement (2015). Now she can also add the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), which will be presented by President Barack Obama this Spring, to her many accolades.

“These early-career scientists are leading the way in our efforts to confront and understand challenges,” stated President Obama as he discussed the PECASE recipients. He will be presenting this award to 105 researches in the early stages of their independent research careers, but this one in particular represents the essence of Atlanta. As an Assistant Professor of Computer & Information Science at her alma mater, Jakita Thomas represents this city well as she is bestowed this honor for her innovative research that explores African-American middle school girls’ ability to develop creative problem solving and computational algorithmic thinking (CAT) capabilities in the context of designing games for social change.

On the path to all of this recognition, Jakita has stayed true to her passion for teaching and understanding the development of scientific reasoning and computational algorithmic thinking capapbilities, which are critical for success in STEM. She co-founded the Social Change Youth Foundation, Inc (http://www.thescfatl.org), a non-profit (501(c)(3)) focused on helping youth pursue their educational, professional, and personal dreams, as well as Digital Youth Founders (http://www.digitalyouthfounders.org), which supports youth globally as they engage in technology-focused social entrepreneurship.  Dr. Thomas also founded Supporting Computational Algorithmic Thinking (SCAT), for which she is receiving the PECASE.  SCAT (http://jthoma41.wix.com/scat) is both a research project as well as a free enrichment program designed to not only explore the development of CAT capabilities over three years in African-American middle-school girls as they engage in game design for social change, but also to increase the awareness of these girls to the broad applicability of CAT across a number of industries and career paths. Programs like these expose African-American youth to Computer Science (CS) earlier in their educational journeys and support them as learn skills and practices that shift them from being only consumers of technology to also being producers of technology.

Her research focused on how African-American middle-school girls develop computational algorithmic thinking capabilities within the context of designing games for social change has given a new perspective to the way science views skill and capability development as well as how to engage under-represented groups in Computer Science,  broadening participation in the field and ensuring CS for All. Her SCAT research project also explores the challenges young African-American girls face and their self-perceptions as creative problem-solvers, critical thinkers and game designers. Thomas expounds on the research conducted, “SCAT has exposed 23 African-American middle school girls to computer science through game design over the last three years, developing their CAT capabilities and supporting them as they learn the practices of game designers in a supportive and fun environment that will broaden their opportunities for future success.”

Jakita is also an author of children's books. "Vivi and the Copper Penny" will be released June 2016.  Media requests for interviews can be arranged through T.MORRISON AGENCY.

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Tags:Spelman College, Jakita O. Thomas, President Barack Obama
Industry:Science
Location:Atlanta - Georgia - United States
Subject:Awards
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