About Us

Computing has become an indispensable tool for enhancing productivity, accelerating scientific discovery and innovation, and enriching K-12 education. However, with respect to the latter, computing has arguably had limited impact on children, parents, and teachers in rural and economically disadvantaged areas and serves as additional evidence of the ever-expanding digital divide between the "haves" and "have nots." To address this inequity as well as reduce the overall cost of adopting and maintaining information technology (IT) infrastructures in K-12 education, we propose to build upon our CREU-supported virtualization project (http://service.cs.vt.edu/) by further leveraging virtualization in order to:

  • Simplify and expedite the delivery of educational content anywhere and anytime. (Think a "free version of iTunes" but for education.)
  • Create an engaging and "kid-friendly" curriculum so as to improve the quality of IT education holistically from elementary school through high school and in support of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

In addition to delivering the benefits of lower cost and simplified management, which in turn, lower the "barrier to entry" for computing, our novel mapping of virtualization for K-12 pedagogy seeks to deliver a comparable level of computing services to rural and under-privileged areas that affluent areas already enjoy via their expansive physical resources. All of the above is captured in this project that we dub MyVICE, which is short for My Virtual Instances of Computing Environments.

Our History

The seeds for this project were laid in March 2008 at a non-profit teacher/parent cooperative K-8 school --- Blacksburg New School --- in Blacksburg, Virginia, a rural town of approximately 40,000 people and home of Virginia Tech. Like many philanthropic efforts around the U.S., Wu Feng sought to introduce the power of computing to the classroom at an early age. Feng started with trying to teach a class of 2nd graders LOGO. He later transitioned the class to a program that would allow students to create "movie adaptations" of their stories while also serendipitously learn about "programming with pictures" (without ever knowing that they were actually programming) --- Storytelling Alice.

Seed gifts from IBM Faculty Awards as well as seed grants from CRA-W CREU supported the efforts what Feng did above within the context of virtualization. So, the summer of 2008 was spent evaluating the efficacy of virtual machines to deliver educational content. Gabriel won the Best Undergraduate Student Poster Award at IEEE/ACM SC|08. The subsequent year was spent maturing the computer science curriculum for K-8, but with a particular emphasis on 3rd through 7th grade, as well as evolving the virtual machine approach into the Apache Virtual Computing Laboratory project.

The Kids Tech University talk by Caitlin Kelleher, the inventor of Storytelling Alice, spurs further interest and highlights the need for virtualization to deliver educational content --- Many parents are unable to setup Storytelling Alice, hence the need for virtualization.

We completed the first prototype of SERViCE, which has been deployed to Blacksburg New School.

A new CRA-W CREU grant funded undergraduates: Michelle Datoc, Scott Fernandez, William Gomez, Gabriel Martinez. The intention was to develop a formal curriculum for Storytelling Alice and create next-generation SERViCE prototype, which we call MyVICE. MyVICE contains SERViCE but also FRESCA.

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storytelling alice