Computer science grows from 30 to 300 students

Taking a stroll through the library, it seems as though nothing has changed. Some students click furiously on their computers trying to finish last-minute assignments, while others flip through textbooks. However, take a closer look at some students’ laptops and you may find them typing something like this on their screen:

Public double getValue(){
int totalvalue = 0;
if (v1!=null) {
totalvalue+=v1.getValue();}
return totalvalue;
}

That’s right. Code.

Although it has been around since 1980, the SAS computer science program has only recently started to grow. When current AP Computer Science teacher Julie Goode first started to teach, her class averaged about 30 students. Next year, however, there will be 277 students enrolled in some kind of computer science course.

“I think the reason why we’re growing is that we’ve been more proactive about teaching the course,” Mrs. Goode said. “We make sure everyone understands how important the learning is – not just the coding part, but the algorithmic and logical thinking part as well.”

AP Computer Science boys hard at work. Photo by Julie Goode.
AP Computer Science boys hard at work. Photo by Julie Goode.

In addition to more effective lesson plans, Hour of Code (HoC) has also helped to promote computer science over the past three years. During HoC, the Geek Girls, Robotics Club, AP Computer Science Class and Computer Science Club come together to talk about various coding projects.

Of course, there are still many other factors that encourage students to take Comp. Sci.

“I took the course because my mother is a software engineer, and she’s the one who suggested it to me,” junior Rabia Husain said. “I was a bit skeptical at first because I didn’t know what it was, but it ended up being a good decision because I really liked it.”

Others, like senior Vibhav Jagwani, simply signed up for the class because he said he “[watches] the T.V. show Silicon Valley and wanted to take Comp Sci. after that.”

With so many students signing up for the AP Computer Science course this year, teachers took note of this interest and began to design new Comp. Sci-related class options for next year. Among these are a new, one-semester Computer Science I course, which serves as a pre-AP course for students who want exposure, as well as a CS50 Independent Learning course.

“There are around 25 students signed up to take CS50 next year, which is an online Harvard course listed as one of the top ten most popular courses in the U.S. collegiately,” Mrs. Goode said. “It covers much higher-level topics, catered towards kids who are thinking of studying CS or engineering perhaps as a major.”

Code from the hackathon. Photo credits to Julie Goode.
Code from the hackathon. Photo credits to Julie Goode.

As an Independent Learning class, however, CS50 poses many challenges for students. Without the conventional classroom setting in which a teacher guides students through every concept by a whiteboard, students must learn to work through problems on their own.

“I definitely learn better when somebody teaches it to me directly – I can’t just open up a textbook and understand things right away,” Rabia said. “That’s why I feel like it’ll be challenging, because even though Mrs. Goode will be there as a supervisor, we are kind of taking the reigns.”

Mrs. Goode will also be taking the course alongside the students so that she is aware of the types of challenges students should be expecting; still, the students are mostly on their own. One benefit to this added freedom is that students taking Independent Learning will also have the time to pursue their own individual projects.

“My friend Hope and I are going to try to make an app that has something to do with traffic and parking, so people can know where to park. We’re working on getting the data for that,” Rabia said.

While the CS50 work is difficult, it does come with many fun traditions. After the first lecture, students always eat cake, and other activities like hackathons and “Puzzle Day” are soon to follow.

IMG_1766
APCS mini-reunion. Photo credits to Julie Goode.

It is clear that the avenues and opportunities available to students interested in pursuing computer science are expanding, but the debate on whether or not all students can excel at Computer Science continues. Some believe the old adage that practice makes perfect.

“Everyone who puts in enough time and effort can become good at it,” Vibhav said. “Unfortunately I also suffered from a lack of motivation towards the end of my second semester of senior year, but I do have enough interest in the subject to pursue it in college.”

Others believe that there are certain types of people that are more prone to succeeding in Computer Science.
“If a child’s the kind of person who just won’t give up, that kind of trait will help them do well. You need to be tenacious, and you need to have grit while working on something,” Mrs. Goode said.

Many of those who do hold this kind of drive continue to pursue Computer Science in college and beyond. Vibhav said he will for sure have a job that will “entail some kind of coding,” and similarly, Rabia stated that “Before APCS, it wasn’t an option for the future, but now I’m definitely thinking about it.”

In the end, both students agreed that they would recommend the subject to anyone and everyone. Not only is the technology revolution increasing the importance of the ability to code, but knowing how to code also teaches people real-life lessons.

“All you need to know is that coding is all about problem solving, and life is really just a series of problems,” Mrs. Goode said. “If you can learn how to break things down and think through a problem, you’re going to be more successful. That’s why I think everyone should take comp sci.”

Author: Jeane Khang

Jeane Khang is a Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Eye, along with Jenna Nichols, and is a producer of the Morning Show. This is her third year taking a journalism class and her 11th year at SAS. In her free time, she loves to learn dance routines, listen to music and eat Italian food. khang18778@sas.edu.sg

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