Strong Finish to the School Year
In an innovative collaboration between the computer science and English departments, first-year computer science scholars demonstrated what they learned by building artificial intelligence chatbots. Computer science instructor Che Rose and English teacher Lauren Norfleet asked scholars to tell a story with character development through a chatbot that users could interact with and make decisions that change the course of the story. The AI end-of-year showcase was a big success, said Rose, who emphasizes project-based learning in all his classes.
“Kids are way more engaged when they’re making something they can be creative with, but we can still teach all the fundamentals and standards they will need to go into the tech industry.”
More advanced scholars showed off games they had built the first level of, using a professional level game engine language called Unity. Scholars also learned python and honed their C# skills to achieve their game goals. The games were Mario-style platforms, but the scholars added their own unique settings and characters, including animals, ninjas, and samurais.
Summer Coding Camp
Nine scholars who completed IDEA’s Fundamentals of Computer Science I course are building on what they’ve learned by participating in six weeks of Apple Coding Camp this summer as interns in IDEA’s summer jobs program. Scholars started the summer by studying Swift, Apple’s proprietary coding language. “If you want to make apps for Apple products, you need to use Swift,” explained Rose. Swift will be the third programming language that these scholars learn. Software development expert Justin Park will be leading these sessions.
In addition to learning Swift, these interns will focus on how to design apps, including elements such as user interface and flow and color theory. Artist Jocelyn Short will be teaching the design portion of coding camp.
First-year interns will submit their projects to Apple’s annual coding camp competition.
Thirteen more experienced scholars who previously completed the introductory coding camp last summer will be working with Rose, actually building apps, as well as learning HTML and CSS. “These kids will have four languages under their belts, and a good understanding of the fundamentals of building the web,” Rose said. “They’ll have the skill set and something they built in their portfolio before they go to college.”
The higher-level interns, who are primarily rising seniors, have been working with Rose since they were freshmen. “They are really happy to be back working in person,” explained Rose. “This is the first class I had when I came to IDEA, so I’ve brought them all the way through the computer science curriculum.” Rose noted that out of four graduating seniors in his computer science classes this past school year, three are going to college to study computer science, and the fourth may pursue a career in information technology.
“This level of engagement is unprecedented,” Rose said. “Especially at a school that didn’t have a computer science program five years ago, in a school district where virtually no schools offer computer science at all.”
Advanced interns will be building their online computer science portfolios to prepare for college applications this fall.
Pictured here, screenshots from end-of-year showcase games by Trevelle Steiner, Christian Douglass, Paris Henson, Arjanae Savoy, and Alfred Ankrom.