By Maggie Kuo
The online documentary series Lab Daze highlights an aspect of computer science not historically associated with the field: Cool. Created in 2014 by computer science professor Juan Gilbert and his graduate students at the University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville, the 10-episode series follows the lab’s activities in an effort to get younger students interested in the discipline. It shows that computer science can be glamorous, such as when it’s used in broadcasting sporting events, and that it can contribute to solving important social problems, for example in the realization of the next generation of voting machines. It affirms that computer scientists are relatable, not socially oblivious wearers of taped-up glasses.
It also counters the image of computer scientists reflected in the demographic data. Just 2 percent of tenured or tenure-track computer science professors in the United States are black, according to the most recent data; Gilbert is one of them. And, while just 1.5 percent of computing doctorate degrees awarded in the United States go to black students, and 20 percent to women, the majority of Gilbert’s lab members are both African-American and female. These are the people who make up the Lab Daze cast, demonstrating to viewers that computer science can be for anyone.
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