20 - 24 September 2009
Oregon State University
Corvallis, Oregon, USA

Graduate Consortium: Democratizing Access to Computational Tools

People increasingly rely on computing for activities at home and work, but for many, it is no longer sufficient to use the scripted tasks supported by packaged software. Instead, many people now produce their own computational solutions, such as spreadsheets, web sites, educational media and simulations, automated business procedures, and scientific visualizations.

Unfortunately, the tools for creating these solutions often neglect the needs of disadvantaged users or smaller user groups. Supporting these groups effectively requires research not only from computer science, but also sociology, education, design, psychology, business, and other disciplines.

The goal of the VL/HCC '09 graduate consortium is to bring together students from these different backgrounds and explore ways of democratizing access to information technology. This might involve increasing participation in programs that teach computational thinking, lowering the barriers to learning programming, or inventing approaches to programming in unexplored domains. It could also involve explaining the nature of computational thinking and the growing class divide that it represents.

Why you should participate...

  • Present your work to a smaller, more attentive audience before the conference.
  • Get detailed, critical, constructive feedback from a diverse panel of experts
  • Meet other students working on similar problems prior to the main conference
  • If you're a graduate student in the U.S., NSF will cover most of your expenses (travel, lodging, registration, food, etc.).

Participating (deadline Tuesday, May 26th)

Who Can Participate

Current Ph.D. students are preferred, but M.S. students who intend to go on to pursue a Ph.D. may also apply. Students have participated no more than once in previous VL/HCC graduate consortiums may also apply.

Application Process

Please send the following items by email to Judith Good (J.Good@sussex.ac.uk) by Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 (11:59 pm PDT):

  • A statement of up to 30 words explaining how your research fits the theme described above.
  • A 2-page research abstract, introducing and motivating the research problem, describing research methods, summarizing results obtained thus far, and discussing research implications. Abstracts must be formatted in IEEE 8.5"x11" two-column conference format. Abstracts exceeding two pages will not be considered. The abstracts of accepted participants will be included in the conference proceedings.
  • A letter of recommendation sent by your thesis advisor directly to the organizers in a separate email message.
  • Your CV.

Submissions must be in PDF, but may be in separate files.

Selection Process

For one third of the participation slots, students who have participated once before will be given priority. The remaining slots will be given to students who are new to the event. Each student from the returning group will be linked with new students in a mentoring arrangement.

Travel Support

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has granted funding to help cover student travel, lodging, registration, food, etc. Eligibility is limited to graduate students attending U.S. universities and research institutions (including both US and non-US citizens). However, graduate students attending institutions from outside the U.S. can participate and are encouraged to obtain other forms of support.


The event will be a full day on Sunday, September 20, before the main conference. All participating students are expected to attend the main conference. All other conference attendees are invited to attend the event to listen to the presentations, interact with the participants, and add to the feedback available to the presenters. No additional sign-up process or registration fee is involved.

More details to come, including times, dates, locations, etc.

Panel Members and Organizers

  • Andrew Ko (University of Washington)
  • Mary Beth Rosson (Pennsylvania State University)
  • Judith Good (University of Sussex)
  • Andrew Begel (Microsoft Research, Redmond)