BY JARED GOODING
Computer science is an incredibly fast growing field and is becoming increasingly important in any career in today’s modern world. Many schools around the country are realizing this and have begun to implement more in depth computer science classes into their curriculums. Computer science classes had been part of the Honeoye Falls-Lima Program of Studies before, but due to lack of resources and interest the classes were removed. Three years ago, due to reinvigorated interest, Honeoye Falls-Lima High School introduced new computer science classes to students, offering two introductory courses and one AP class. This recent re-addition makes HF-L ahead of the curve, as according to the College Board in 2013, only 9% of schools offered the AP computer science exam.
There were a few main forces to get the classes back into the HF-L program, both from students and other areas. One major force was the HF-L robotics team, Cougar Tech. Both student participants and mentors alike wanted computer sciences classes to be available to students so they could further their skills inside and outside of robotics. Suzanne Marcellus, a mentor on the Cougar Tech team, stated that the team uses computer science for a variety of tasks such as “controls, vision processing, scouting, autonomous movement, and interactions between the robots and their driver.” Another major force was a few concerned parents who felt computer science was very important to today’s society and felt it should be available to the students. Cougar Tech’s interest combined with this parental interest brought it to the school’s attention, and soon the math department also became a driving force in bringing the classes back into the curriculum. However, there were a few roadblocks, and it took some time and preparation before the classes could be added. There were of course the ever-present budget concerns, as the computer science classes were not replacing any old classes but simply being added into the existing math curriculum. This meant finding a teacher who was willing and able to take on the new courses as well, and finding a suitable match was a process for the school’s administration. Eventually, a teacher was found in Russell Clair, who had been at HF-L as a math teacher previously. When Clair decided that he was going to teach the AP computer science course, he traveled to New York City and went through training at Fordham University. Once the classes were implemented, many excited students looking to learn about computer science began signing up for the courses.
The interest in the new classes has been high, and this school year the greatest number of students enrolled in the AP Computer Science A course. Clair stated that the classes are “self sustaining”, meaning that when kids take the introductory courses of Computer Science I and II, most will move on to take the AP course and further improve their skills. In fact, this school year another AP computer science course was added, known as Computer Science Principles. There are students from every grade level in the computer science courses, and a few older, committed students who have taken all of the courses the school has made available.
Computer science is seen by many as extremely important to the world’s future. Even if students are not interested in a career in computer science, the classes will provide them with skills that can be used in almost any career. An article in the Cornell Sun, Cornell University’s newspaper, explains why computer science may be so important, “‘There are many opportunities out there, not just in C.S. companies, but many other professions need people who can understand data and be able to do some computation with it,’ Tardos said. ‘Being able to do some computing is definitely going to be super useful for a well-educated adult in the 21st century’”. Computer science not only gives you directly useful skills, but also provides a new way to teach problem solving. It forces students to solve problems in different, unique ways, and allows for a considerable amount of flexibility in the process. Clair has stated that computer science is “definitely a good way to think about problem solving”, and is “becoming necessary in almost every field”.
The HF-L Middle School technology department is even getting involved, and does a segment on coding with all students during their technology class. People can be apprehensive when it comes to computer science, but with classes available to students at a younger age, some of that intimidation may be removed. On this subject, Clair’s message to students is, “I don’t want kids to be intimidated by computer science, that’s the stereotype. They think that half the class already knows everything!” Computer science is well on its way to becoming one of the most influential and important subjects in the professional realm, and HF-L’s addition of these classes and continued support of computer science is putting its students potentially ahead of many others.