CMU-Q’s MindCraft introduces computer science to more than 11,000 students

The MindCraft programme at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q), a Qatar Foundation partner university, has introduced computer science to more than 11,000 students in Qatar since the workshops began in 2016.

MindCraft workshops introduce middle and high school students to the basic concepts of programming and computational thinking.
Khaled Harras, area head of computer science at CMU-Q, started the programme in 2016.
“Our goal has always been to educate the students, to give them some basic computing skills and to show them that computer science is a big field where they can spread their wings,” said Harras. “We’ve had students come back to us and say, we’re now studying computer science in university. You’ve changed our lives.”
MindCraft began in 2016 in collaboration with Boeing as in-person workshops for high school students. In 2018, the MindCraft team had the opportunity to scale MindCraft when CMU-Q joined forces with the Jassim and Hamad Bin Jassim Charitable Foundation to create the Hamad Bin Jassim Centre for K-12 Computer Science Education. The centre has the mission to promote computer science education among school-aged children throughout Qatar, and MindCraft now reaches thousands of students per year. Harras serves as co-director of the HBJ Centre.
Over the years, Harras and Nour Tabet, outreach co-ordinator for computer science at CMU-Q, have adapted MindCraft for different audiences and different modalities.
“Over the years, we started expanding to different age groups, different levels and different demands,” said Tabet. “The original, in-person MindCraft we called MindCraft Alpha. Now, we also have MindCraft Junior, MindCraft Mobile and MindCraft Virtual.”
After the success of MindCraft Virtual, the team has created an intensive multi-session version for students who would like to explore computer science in more depth.
Harras noted, “It’s important to tailor the workshops for the audience and the modalities. We were finding that some kids wanted to learn more. We ran a test of the multi-session MindCraft over spring break to see how kids responded, and they were really engaged throughout. It looks very promising.”
MindCraft Virtual sessions will continue to run for the remainder of the academic year.