Still Trending Down: Computing-related graduates in Alberta

If we’re serious about shifting the Alberta Advantage, I think we need to focus on technology. If we really want to be in the sweet spot of adding lots of value, participating in the economy of the future, and being globally competitive, we need smart people who can be creative and innovative in the appropriate sectors and industries. Technology is absolutely going to be at the heart of any sector or industry that will enable us to be world-class and trendsetting, there’s just no question about it.

That’s why this graph absolutely shocked me:

The data comes from the University of Alberta, but I think it is representative of the province as a whole.

The number of students graduating in the fields of Computing Science and Computer Engineering in Alberta is trending downward, with no correction in sight. How can we build the economy of the future when the picture looks like this?

Here’s a bit more detail – with the number of graduates broken out by degree/program:

I haven’t looked, but I suspect enrollment numbers would be similar (that is, I don’t think an incredible number of students register in computing-related programs and then switch out).

Bill Gates has been talking about the need for more students to take up computer science for years now. There’s more demand than supply, even when you factor in immigration. The need for us to stay competitive in this regard is well-documented. It looks like we’re falling further behind.

I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know how we get more students interested in computer-related degrees. But I do think it is important to consider this data when we talk about the success of our provincial technology sectors, and indeed when we consider shifting the Alberta Advantage.

Checkers solved at the U of A

Post ImageHow many games of checkers can you win in a row before someone beats you? Quite a few? Doesn’t matter, eventually you’ll lose right? You think, “it’s only a matter of time.” Well some Computing Sciences researchers at the U of A have figured out why – it’s because humans make mistakes. They’ve solved checkers, completely, and have software that is invicible:

After more than 18 years and sifting through 500 billion billion (a five followed by 20 zeroes) checkers positions, Jonathan Schaeffer and his colleagues have built a checkers-playing computer program that cannot be beaten. Completed in late April, the Chinook program may be played to a draw but will never be defeated.

Their research and “proof” were to be published in today’s edition of the journal Science.

This is pretty incredible when you think about it. It speaks to the advances we’ve made not only with technology, but with our understanding of how to harness it to do things that previously seemed impossible.

I generally consider checkers to be a fairly simple game, but don’t let that fool you:

The popular game may be simple to play, but it holds a potential 500 billion billion positions. That’s one million times more complicated than any other game solved before, says Jonathan Schaeffer, the computer science professor who began the project in 1989.

Congratulations to Schaeffer and his team! I can’t imagine what they’ll figure out next.

Read: ExpressNews