Letter From the Director
Hello everyone, welcome back and thank you for all your help and generosity this year so far. Your sons and daughters are now settled in to their classes and starting to find the rhythm of their new computer science classes. Richard Johnston and I are also starting to reach our stride with all of our classes and new students this year, and are seeing the fruits of our labors from last year. We have a wonderful new crop of students in our beginning CS classes – Exploring Computer Science and Computational Art, with a more diverse population than ever before. We also have two sections of AP Computer Science where there was only one last year, our Mobile Programming class is UC Honors approved now and learning iOS via Apple’s new Swift programming language, and Richard has a full section of Pre-Calculus H students who are learning or reinforcing some basic programming skills via programming in Python where they would have traditionally used hand graphing or calculators. As you’ll read below, we also have many other wonderful things happening or in the planning stages, and much of this would not be possible without your help and support. Finally, speaking of support, you can still participate in our Annual Fund drive by visiting sbhscs.org and clicking the “Donate” button – the CS Academy couldn’t exist as such without your generous support!
Thank you so much, and I look forward to seeing you in the near future.
News Since Last Spring
Starting late last spring, even before school got out, and using funds from our generous Mosher Foundation grant, we began developing curriculum for our new Precalculus Honors with Python class. This class infuses the normal PreCalc H curriculum with a series of innovative labs and activities using computers and the Python programming language where more traditional hand graphing or calculators would have been used. In its pilot year, this full course is now being refined as it’s taught, and will lay the groundwork for a series of other math classes to incorporate basic programming. We also received a generous grant from QAD last spring for a full class set of laptops in support of this class as well as other classes developed between the CSA and the math department. Our goal is to get real-world coding skills into the core of our high school curriculum, to expose more students to programming who might not otherwise have the chance, and to provide another avenue for our academy students to apply their knowledge and sharpen their skills.
This summer also saw another round of the all-girls middle school aged Dream It Code It coding camp run by our very own Anna Brewer and Maria DeAngelis, as well as a middle school level coding camp for all kids run by Gabe Speer and Will deBruynkops. Both were fantastically successful. At the same time, we had several of our upper level or graduating students placed in internships with local tech companies, and found success there as well. Some feedback we got included statements like “whatever you’re doing there is working – keep up the good work,” and “they exceeded our expectations.” We are currently aiming to do all of these things next summer again, so stay tuned for more updates and don’t hesitate to contact us with your questions and ideas.
The CS Academy, Fall 2015
As I mentioned in my introduction, we have quite a few new things happening this year that we’re very excited about. In addition to the new math course and our summer activities
- we have UC Honors approval for the Mobile Programming class, and students can either take it as a CP follow-on to ECS or Computational Art, or take the honors level after a successful path through APCS.
- we have followed Apple’s lead and moved from Objective-C to Swift in the Mobile Programming class. Swift is a modern, fully featured, exciting new programming language that is both simple and powerful, and the students are really liking it.
- we now have close to 200 students combined enrolled in our classes!
- we started our monthly Guest Speaker Series with our first female speaker, and by the time you read this will have had 3 in a row. More below…
- we have two sections of APCS this year with lots of engaged students learning the basics of the Java programming language while preparing for the AP Computer Science A test, first thing in May. After this class, these students will be ready for Mobile next year!
- we are currently planning our Silicon Valley Field trip for our upper-level academy students for the first weekend in February, and hope to be able to offer some local field trips this year as well.
Notes On Our First Two Guest Speakers
Our first speaker was Ms. Anapama Vaid, founder of Parent Square. She talked about her experience growing up wanting to be an architect then gaining entrance to a highly competitive university CS program. She began her career doing embedded systems programming and moved through other front-end programming jobs at places like Citrix. Her talk encouraged students to think beyond problem solving and automation, to move towards problem identification and innovation. She stressed knowing your customer, testing your product, and teamwork. All in all it was a very well received talk and a great way to kick off the year!
Our second speaker was Professor Chandra Krintz of UCSB’s Computer Science Department. Professor Krintz has pioneered research on cloud computing and services and the internet of things (IoT), and spoke with our students about making the benefits of the power of computing and software available for all humanity. From smart farming to personalized medicine, most of us use technology even if we don’t create it. Much of Professor Krintz’s work concentrates on providing that bridge between the creators and the consumers of technology, and she’s also very interested in supporting and encouraging young people from underrepresented groups to consider and pursue computer science.
Two SBHS Robotics Club members, Gus Siegel and Beck Dehlsen, recently attended GCER, the Global Conference on Educational Robotics. This year, it was held in early July in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This international conference and Botball competition had many teams attending and competing from across the US and from around the world as well including China, Kuwait, Qatar, Austria, and Poland.
A pre-conference Aquatic Botball workshop was held at the beginning of the week that featured information on underwater robotics. The attendees were informed that there might be underwater competitions at future GCER events featuring this new technology! Throughout the week, experts gave various informative talks on various topics providing attendees a plethora of information on what’s up and coming in the field of robotics.
Having just won the Greater Los Angeles Regional Botball Tournament, Team SBHS was optimistically hopeful going into the International Botball Tournament. The seeding rounds took place early in the week. Unfortunately, Team SBHS ran into some technical difficulties during 2 of the 3 rounds resulting in a lower seed than expected. During the Double Elimination rounds a few days later, they did fairly well despite the stiff competition. However, they were eliminated by the end of the day. On the final day of the event, SBHS was teamed up with fellow Californians, Team Palm Desert HS for the Alliance Match. Together, the two teams achieved a high score resulting in a 4th place win in the Alliance Match! This is the best our team has ever done at GCER so well done, SBHS!
Next year’s competition will take place at St. Augustine Resort in Florida from July 5-10. So be sure to mark your calendars.
The Hour of Code week is December 7-11 this year. We will have the labs open at lunch each day with planned activities for all SBHS students to try. In addition, we will have our December Guest Speaker – Adam Gray of Novacoast on the 8th.
The SB Unified’s Academy Showcase will be held on Thursday, January 14th from 4:30-6:30 at Earl Warren Showgrounds. Be sure to stop by and tell all your friends who have 8th graders about to enter high school to check us out there as well.
Our Silicon Valley Field trip will happen the last weekend of January, 2016. Itinerary details are still being finalized, but it promises to once again be – as one student put it last year – “the best field trip of my entire life.”