SDSU Professor's Software Aims To Curb School Dropouts

Robert Briggs Developed A Revolutionary Software Program To Motivate Students To Stay In School

A San Diego State University professor has developed a revolutionary software program that can motivate high-risk students to stay in school.

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Professor Robert Briggs says he found out 20 years ago what it takes to get through to high-risk kids.

“One kid said to me ‘I got on the wrong side of a gang, I may not get home alive tonight… What do I care when Columbus sailed?’” Briggs remembered.

Briggs went on to surmise that the boy did not believe in the future that he was being prepared for.

The answer, according to Briggs, was to stop preparing the kids for the future.

Instead, he found out what a group of 5th and 6th graders in Washington D.C. were and were not interested in at the time.

“Immediately a child stuck a hand up and said ‘history, history’s boring,’” Briggs said with a chuckle.

But by students using his interactive and teamwork based software program for two years, those kids realized that history laid out a path to greatness --“They were really excited; they said ‘can we start right now?’”

Five years later, none of the students had dropped out, while more than half of their non-program counterparts had.

So what happened to that software?

“The problem was that it took too much expertise to do what we did,” Briggs explained, meaning the software was too complicated for anyone without the expertise to decipher and apply to the real classroom situation.

In 1996, Briggs used his knowledge on the USS Coronado to help the Navy with decision making speeds. In 2008, he used it again to help the Air Force.

But it still wasn’t simple enough for others to use without him.

The Air Force decided to invest $3.6 million so Briggs could make the software simpler.

The software now allows users to brainstorm in real time and can be customized in a matter of hours for each classroom’s needs.

It took 20 years to get to this point.

“It’s the end of a long road,” said Briggs, but he points out that it’s really just the beginning.

He says the program works best if high-risk kids use it early, around 9 to 11-years-old.

The new software is set to be tested in Chicago schools this Fall.

Briggs hopes to test it in San Diego schools soon.

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