Once again it's the season of the Pennsylvania Middle School Computer Science Fair. Here are some of this year's top awards:
1st Place - Logo DesignNot a single category, it would seem, for actual computer programming. No sense that computer programming involves anything more that the consumption and marketing of computer technology. No sense of the tremendous analytical skills that go into the coding that makes all the rest of this possible.
2012 middle School Computer Science Fair logo symbolizes the integration of technology in our lives and features a Quick Reader ta to the fair's website for smart phone users.
1st Pace - Desktop Publishing
Inspired by Laura Crawford's books on New York City, Washington DC, and Chicago, this children's book features cheery postcards written by a young girl during a trip to Philadelphia. Each page features a popular designation in our city for families. Look closely and you'lll notics that the names of Amy's friends help the reader to spell Philadelphia--Penelope, Holly, Iris, Belia, Alexis, Danny, Ella, Lisa, Pam, Holly, Isaac, and Alex. Quick Reader tags are included to give the reader with a smart phone internet access to each destination's website.
1st Place - Digital Video
This jazzy music vieo is in appreciation of Philadelphia as a popular designation for families with teenagers. The vieo features an original score, choreography and lyrics sure to please teens as well as their parents.
1st Place - Multimedia
This mutimedia project is about the history and impact of volunteerism. The project features the efforts of the University of the Sciences, families and other organizations to transform a trash-filled vacant lot in West Philaelphia into the Lower Mill Creek Garden. With 3,000 vacant lots in Philadelphia alone, the impact of a community-building beautification project could have a significant impact on our city.
1st Place Web Page
Pollution Solution is a website designed to motivate young adolescents to take better care of our environment making small changes every day.
2nd Place - Graphic Design
Based on the organization Tree Tenders in Philadelphia, this project features a complete marketing package of logo, leterhead poster and business cards for a fictional organization, "Earth Strength." The theme of the design is to inpire community members of support tree-planting projects, which will improve the beauty of our city, and enhance the environment.
And yet another area that has been hijacked away from the most left-brained of our students.
Perhaps there's some virtue in this contest, but could we possibly call it something other than a "Computer Science" fair?
And could we possibly have a city-wide Computer Science Fair that's actually worthy of the name--i.e., one that showcases the work of those who do actual programming? I'm thinking, in particular, of autistic spectrum students like J, who spent about an hour writing up a program in Python that lists all the different ways to create a given amount of money using pennies, nickles, dimes, and quarters:
num=input('Enter the number: ')
a = 0
b = 0
c = 0
d = num
e = num/10 % 1
f = num/10 - e + 1
g = 0
h = num
i = num
j = num
k = num
while a < k/25 - (k/25 % 1) + 1:
while b < j/10 - (j/10 % 1) + 1:
while c < i/5 - (i/5 % 1) + 1:
print "quarters: " + str(a) + " dimes: " + str(b) + " nickels: " + str(c) + " pennies: " + str(h)
h = h - 5
c = c + 1
i = i - 10
h = i
b = b + 1
c = 0
j = j - 25
h = j
i = j
a = a + 1
b = 0
No one showed him how to do nesting while-loops, or even suggested this strategy to him: a novice programmer, he wrote this code all by himself.
The reason I keep harping on this is that it's in output like this where I see J's potential for earning a living, for feeling happy and productive, and for giving something back to the world.
Wouldn't it be nice if today's schools gave young programmers like J even a fraction of the recognition they give our young graphic designers and desktop publishers?