(Cross-posted on the Google Research Blog.)

College students are more interested than ever in studying computer science. There has been an unprecedented increase in enrollment in Computer Science undergraduate programs over the past six years. Harvard University’s popular introductory CS course CS50 has recently claimed the spot as the most enrolled course on campus. An astounding 50% of Harvey Mudd’s graduates received engineering degrees this year. However, while the overall number of students in introductory computer science courses continue to climb, the number of students who go on to complete undergraduate degrees in this field, particularly among women and under-represented minorities, does not match this increase in individual course enrollment (2013 Taulbee Survey).

Recent findings show that while students may begin a CS degree program, retaining students after their first year remains an issue. Research indicates that one of the strongest factors in the retention of students in undergraduate CS degrees is early exposure to engaging courses and course material, such as high quality assignments that are meaningful and relevant to the student’s life or classroom activities that encourage student-to-student interaction. When an instructor or department imbeds these practices into the introductory CS classroom, students remain excited about CS and are more likely to complete their undergraduate CS degree.

At Google we believe in the importance of preparing the next generation of computer scientists. To this end, we’ve created the CS Engagement Small Grants Program to support educators teaching introductory computer science courses in reaching their engagement and retention goals. We’ll give unrestricted gifts of $5,000 to the selected applicants’ universities, towards the execution of engaging CS1 or CS2 courses in the 2014-2015 school year. We encourage educators who are teaching CS1 and CS2 courses at the post-secondary level to apply to the Google CS Engagement Small Grants Program. Applications will be accepted through November 15, 2014 and will be evaluated on an ongoing basis. If you’re interested in applying, please check out the Call for Proposal.