AP Computer Science Class Debuts This Year
Helias Catholic High School added a new class this year, one that administrators and students alike hope will give those interested in a career in computer science or technology fields a leg up before heading to college.
The class, AP Computer Science, provides students with an opportunity to develop a strong foundation in their knowledge of computer science and to learn how computers think (SPOILER ALERT: Computers do exactly what we tell them to do… Sorry, no Skynet).
According to course instructor Dr. Collin Mayhan, students in AP Computer Science (also referred to as Computer Coding in the Helias halls) develop problem solving skills, design strategies, understanding of data structures, analytical skills, ethical and social implications of computing, and ultimately a better understanding of computers and their language.
“Initially, the target students for this class are those who may want to major in computer science or other science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) fields,” Mayhan said. “Over time, we would like to appeal to the greater student body, as this skillset is applicable in most career paths.” To do so, Mayhan says he would like to further develop the course offerings, eventually including an introductory course as the current course is limited to juniors and seniors with a demonstrated mathematical proficiency and some background in computing, with many of those coming from the school’s popular robotics club.
“Students enrolled in this class have a variety of mathematical abilities and experience with Java or other (computer) languages,” Mayhan said. “These differences allow for unique collaboration experiences between students. The general response from the students in the class is that it’s challenging, but they enjoy the material. As the content seems to be getting more difficult, they have “a-ha moments” and tie together big ideas from earlier lessons.”
The course actually came into being through a generous grant. Physics and physical science teacher Tim Backes, who also serves as chairman of the school’s science department, applied for an Amazon Future Engineer grant, which is a collaboration between the online giant Amazon and STEM education supporter and curriculum creator Edhesive, LLC. Helias had the good fortune to be among the 12 schools nationally to be awarded the grant and the school’s administration saw it as a great opportunity to start a computer science program.
Through the grant, Amazon will pay the $2,500 annual cost of Edhesive’s cloud-based advanced computer science course content for students, along with training materials and support for course teachers. Despite not knowing how long the school will be the beneficiary of Amazon’s financial generosity, Helias and Mayhan plan on making the most out of the opportunity the school and its students have been provided.
But Amazon and Edhesive aren’t the only ones who have played a major role in getting Helias’s Computer Science program up and running.
“Students are required to have a computer to complete assignments at home,” Mayhan stated. “But while in the classroom we utilize lectures, coding activities and other content from Edhesive. We have a great resource in Mr. (Tim) Hronick who is always willing to help troubleshoot any issues to ensure class runs smoothly. And we are incredibly blessed to have a group of donors who have helped to turn this surprising course addition into a reality by enabling the creation of a dedicated computer lab.”
Mayhan also said that he hopes that generosity in the community will turn into future learning opportunities for students outside the classroom.
“I am interested in hearing from local businesses that are willing and able to allow our students to take field trips that would give them the opportunity to see some of these skills that they’re learning in class in action in a real world setting. We would also love to hear from anyone who would like to share their experience in the field with the class.”
If any STEM or computer science related business or working professional is interested in exploring opportunities with Dr. Mayhan and the Helias Computer Science program, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.