Alexis Ly, 15, enrolled in computer science at Santa Fe High School because she believes it is good to have some computer skills and she wanted to try something new.
Ly entered the semester with some apprehensions about what the class would be like.
“I thought that we were going to be dealing with endless codes and programs,” she said. “I was doubtful that I’d understand anything in this class.”
Now that the school year is almost complete, her opinion has changed.
“It is not as complicated as it looks,” she said. “It’s entertaining once you understand what you’re doing.”
Male students are four times more likely than female students to take the AP computer science exam and only 5 percent of college-bound students plan to major in computer science.
Additionally, the College Board reports that last year in Oklahoma only 17 percent of computer science AP students were women. In Oklahoma, fewer than 8 percent of computer science and engineering degrees awarded in 2009 were earned by African Americans, Hispanics and American Indians, according to the College Placement Board.
Santa Fe computer science teacher Susan James said this low participation contributes to the predicted shortage of computer scientists and reduces diverse perspectives necessary to create innovative technologies.
Last summer, James attended a University of Oklahoma computer science workshop. James implemented some of what she learned at Santa Fe where she teaches computer science and Advanced Placement computer science. Friday morning, her students were working on end-of-the-year interactive projects.
James said she spread the word about her class, and enrollment numbers, including the number of female students, are rising. Ly’s comments were part of the plan and the design for the class. James said the first semester instruction included introductory unplugged group work.
Dustin Dang, 15, said he enrolled in computer science at Santa Fe because he was very interested in computers and wanted to learn more about them. He said in the beginning he didn’t have any expectations.
“I just did what Ms. James wanted us to do and that turned out pretty well,” he said. “To be honest, it is a pretty cool class. Ms. James is a super cool teacher and we have dual monitors.”
This is not a class for the faint of heart, Dang said. The whole point of computer science is to test out different ways to do one task, and in this class there is always more than one way to do an assignment, Dang said.
Dang said his plans after graduation include going to college and pursuing a degree in the engineering field. Dang said he plans on taking AP computer science next year because he has only scratched the surface this year. There is so much to learn when you take one of James’ computer science classes, he said.
Amanda Scroggins, 14, said she enrolled because she wants to go into aerospace engineering, and she believed the class would be a good introduction into the computer aspects of the career.
Scroggins said she knew they would be using Java. Java is a programming language and computing platform first released by Sun Microsystems in 1995, according to information on the company’s website. Many applications and websites will not function unless Java is installed on a PC. It is used in laptops, data centers, game consoles, supercomputers, cell phones and the Internet.
“This class is interesting,” Scroggins said. “It has taught me the basics of Java programming and has given me an advantage when I need to take computer science in college.”
Scroggins said she plans on joining robotics next year with either Santa Fe or Francis Tuttle, which also uses Java and goes more in depth into the programming language.
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