How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby Aii » Fri Oct 26, 2007 12:01 pm UTC

Bring along a jar of jelly, a jar of peanut butter, a bag of bread, a knife, and some paper towels.

Ask the group how to make a PB&J sandwich.

Let them give you a set of instructions.

Attempt to make a sandwich, following their instructions to the letter, and no further - allowing for such situations as attempting to stick the knife through the closed lid of the peanut butter jar (if they never specified to remove the lid before attempting to get peanut butter out of the jar) or placing the entire jelly jar inside the sandwich.
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby Pesto » Fri Oct 26, 2007 6:39 pm UTC

I remember doing that in grade school.

One person ended up with a knife sandwich.

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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby Hammer » Fri Oct 26, 2007 7:48 pm UTC

Aii wrote:Bring along a jar of jelly, a jar of peanut butter, a bag of bread, a knife, and some paper towels.

Ask the group how to make a PB&J sandwich.

Let them give you a set of instructions.


FWIW, I'm not sure how much this will excite a student, but I'm all for this approach as a part of teaching. As someone who regularly needs to hire programmers, I am very tired of seeing people who are in love with [Language] and can make it do all sort of "cool" tricks, but have no ability to think through or even accurately define a problem. [/off topic]
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby Umlaut » Fri Oct 26, 2007 7:56 pm UTC

I learned a great demo similar to that when getting into tech support.

You start with a bunch of assorted building materials (pencils, bricks, paper clips, etc.) and have one person build something while describing how to do it to another person (who can't see the original) with the same materials. It is way fun.
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby loratwopointone » Fri Oct 26, 2007 8:34 pm UTC

We recently had a CS demo and they made a flash version of pong. It wasn't really that inspiring. They said that was the type of thing we might be making in a years time. :shock:

We then got to make a basic calculator in Visual Basic, that bit was actually quite cool because you actually got to make something and see it work.

I wouldn't waste time showing stuff that you need hundreds of man hours to make, keep it quick and let them make something, even a "hello world". It was quite cool to see something you wrote working and it makes you think "Oooh, I can actually do this!"
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby umbrae » Sat Oct 27, 2007 1:35 am UTC

Don't crack something. This will not only go over poorly with administration, but it takes the allure out of the whole process. You don't just do something like that in front of everyone!

The key is to hint at something cool (and mischievous) you can do with it. For example, if you decide to use lego mindstorms (a good idea), you could talk about how easy it would be to build a robot to brute-force crack a safe. (It's been done.) Or you could talk about computer programs that help you open any master lock.

If you pick Lego Mindstorms, I suggest talking about how far they could really take such an endeavor. The DARPA Grand Challenge comes to mind.

Hands on is important. Something useful is good too. Don't show them sorting algorithms or anything! Even many CS majors are bored stupid by that! (Admit it guys - most of us here are the exception to the rule. Myself included.)

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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby LoopQuantumGravity » Sun Oct 28, 2007 2:06 am UTC

Umlaut wrote:I learned a great demo similar to that when getting into tech support.

You start with a bunch of assorted building materials (pencils, bricks, paper clips, etc.) and have one person build something while describing how to do it to another person (who can't see the original) with the same materials. It is way fun.


This is a better idea than the sandwich idea. The sandwich one seems more contrived, and a lot of people will be annoyed and think you're just deliberately being obtuse. But building some 3D thing out of blocks or legos or something would be a lot better.

(Not as awesome as my lego adder idea, though.)
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby fortyseventeen » Sun Oct 28, 2007 9:24 pm UTC

A lot of these ideas seem pretty low-level. That's good, but we need some object-oriented activities, too. Those last two (PBJ and commander vs. builder) are good—for students in primary education—as exercises in object manipulation, trial and error, and in providing sufficiently specific instructions. The PBJ project that was for a short time presented at The Tech Museum in California, for example, was the favorite of the 10~13-year-olds. By high school, you should probably assume that anyone who has the capacity for CS will have already been exposed to these ideas, or that they would be understood after a short explanation.

Has anyone here heard of the Alice Project? It nods slightly toward teenage girls, but it's a more high-level teaching environment, which might expose some of the more modern CS concepts.
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby aleflamedyud » Mon Oct 29, 2007 6:01 am UTC

Is Alice Turing-complete in some fashion?
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby Amicitia » Mon Oct 29, 2007 11:37 am UTC

Maybe these methods would appeal to people slightly interested in CS, but such people with that much of interest would probably pursue CS without such a stimulus. Most of the things stated are either too boring to interest anyone, or too advanced to peak the interest of someone without a clue about CS.
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby aleflamedyud » Mon Oct 29, 2007 2:59 pm UTC

Here's one: explain the concept of Turing-completeness, and then explain about how any Turing-complete language can emulate/implement any other Turing-complete language. Proceed to demonstrate this by booting a console emulator and playing a video game.

OK, so there are some legal issues. It'll demonstrate an important concept and still interest the kidlings.
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby quintopia » Mon Oct 29, 2007 6:54 pm UTC

Perhaps they would be enticed by the wit and elegance of Bernard Chazelle himself?

Computers, algorithms, quines, P and NP, decidability, RSA, PCP, ZK, Moore's Law, Shor's Algorithm, and the CS worldview all in one article and all in incredibly clear layman's terms:

http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~chazelle/p ... rithm.html

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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby Teh Russians » Mon Oct 29, 2007 7:20 pm UTC

Oh me yarm I have the best idea.
Use SL(Second Life). It has a built-in programming language called LSL which is similar to java, and a simple, easy to use 3D modeling capability. It's very visual and relatively simple. Like you could build a model of a car, and program it to move around, the wheels to spin, the doors to open, and other cool stuff with relative ease. Or if you're not too familiar with the modeling part you can just create a box, and program it to jump around, change color, and play some sounds that you uploaded. There's so many cool demonstrations you can do. You can literally create ANYTHING in SL.

I think SL has great potential in education. In the school district that I used to go to, I showed SL to some teachers, and it's now being used to introduce kids to programming.

So yeah... if you like the idea and need any help with LSL scripting/SL modeling I would gladly help out.
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby fortyseventeen » Mon Oct 29, 2007 10:59 pm UTC

aleflamedyud wrote:Is Alice Turing-complete in some fashion?


Dr. Pausch has a strong hold on the project. I would be shocked if he hasn't addressed Turing-completeness, i.e., if Alice doesn't have arbitrary-length lists, since I know that it has everything else. I must admit that I haven't played with it much myself.
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby photosinensis » Fri Nov 09, 2007 3:50 pm UTC

My school's CS department has resorted to drastic measures to improve enrollment. We own ten Xbox 360s, mostly for the purpose of our XNA Gaming class. However, those consoles are also very useful in attracting students to our booths when we're out recruiting. All we need to do is pop in Halo 3 (MS has given us copies), and the HS students are all over us.

I don't know how well this will ultimately work, though. We just got the consoles this year.
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby uselessuser » Sat Nov 10, 2007 12:59 pm UTC

Bring a laptop and a webcam, then run a face recognition program and show them how easily they are recognized as humans while they walk in front of the camera.
I recently saw a demo of a program developed at Fraunhofer institute that did exactly this, in real time on a mid-price computer, plus giving some information about each single face in the picture, such as gender and a couple of emotions. Believe me, there was nobody that was not astonished.

But: do not make the mistake to say anything in-depth about the mathematics behind that. That was the point that most of the audience got bored.

If you're looking for something more hands-on, use Matlab to implement a simple object tracker. That shouldn't take too long.

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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby fortyseventeen » Sat Nov 10, 2007 8:26 pm UTC

Oh, duh, forgot this one:

http://hacketyhack.net/

The current version of Hackety Hack is somewhat buggy, but it shows yet another approach: let kids use programming to better facilitate what they do online every day: blogging, watching videos, etc.

The next version is due shortly after the developer (who goes by the handle 'why the lucky stiff') finishes Shoes, the mini, cross-platform GUI framework that HH 2.0 will use.
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby Durinia » Wed Nov 14, 2007 10:06 pm UTC

Late to the party, but CS Unplugged is an awesome resource for activities like the one you're looking for. It's a collection of activities and resources for teaching CS concepts in K-12 environments (with no actual computers). It's completely free to download the book, and there are a ton of activity pages.

Personally, my favorite is showing kids how they can count up to 31 with only 1 hand. (Something that's come in very handy for me - counting rest measures in orchestra music)

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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby fortyseventeen » Thu Nov 15, 2007 7:12 pm UTC

Amicitia wrote:Maybe these methods would appeal to people slightly interested in CS, but such people with that much of interest would probably pursue CS without such a stimulus. Most of the things stated are either too boring to interest anyone, or too advanced to peak the interest of someone without a clue about CS.


My intuition is that, by high school, at least some of a kid's career path is already determined, be it by their interests or the imposed will of their parents (ick). During high school, many kids will choose a more specific path, e.g. CS as opposed to another engineering degree, or maybe even something in design. The purpose of that time is to expose the students to the available options, and as such, things that would "appeal to people slightly interested in CS" are relevant.

Personally, I don't think that we need to give a whole lot of actual motivation. There are tons of CS students in universities already, arguably too many. :lol:
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby Durinia » Mon Nov 19, 2007 1:48 pm UTC

fortyseventeen wrote:Personally, I don't think that we need to give a whole lot of actual motivation. There are tons of CS students in universities already, arguably too many. :lol:


Actually, enrollments in many/most CS programs at major universities (in the US, at least) have declined in the neighborhood of 50% over the last 10 years. (Source) The projected CS/IT worker shortfall is enormous. (which is good for job prospects, of course!)

Not saying it's like that everywhere, but at least in the US, CS Educators and industry members are seriously concerned about being able to put out enough students.

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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby OfficiallyHaphazard » Tue Nov 20, 2007 4:19 am UTC

I would suggest a stripped down example, tat still shows code.

For example, at Stanford, they start people learning with a Robot they call Karel--essentially the program has four commands: move, turnLeft, putSquare, and pickSquare.

http://people.reed.edu/~jerry/121/mater ... nsjava.pdf

Implemented using java, when you press play (in eclipse) a screen comes up with a stylized robot.

You can do a lot of really cool things with Karel, and it shows the basics of coding, and the HS students can pick it up easily.

The link is the book for the students, I think.
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby castelle » Tue Nov 20, 2007 10:13 am UTC

Ooh! I'm actually traveling around to high schools this January doing exactly this. Speaking from experience alone, I was quite intimidated to take my first programming class, even though I had excelled in my previous math and science classes. The reason was that I had no real notion of what programming was besides that which movies like Hackers (bless it, nonetheless) had instilled in me. I mistakenly believed that all the guys who lived in the computer labs playing StarCraft and WoW all day and seemed to know a million Windows shortcuts, etc, were not only programmers, but brilliant ones with whom it would take me another 16 years to catch up.

Imagine my surprise at finding them all in the same classroom as me for the lowest-level introductory class imaginable... and not knowing any more of the material than I did! I would love to be able to explain to every high school student who HASN'T considered computer science WHAT exactly it entails. There are a lot of stereotypes that scare away students who might otherwise be very good at this.

The quickest, simplest way I always try to explain programming elevator-pitch-style is saying "Tell me how to walk across the room" and cartoonishly obeying every little command. It can be quite fun and is a great way to start a presentation, requires absolutely no props and only a little time, and it gets students involved right off the bat.
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby photosinensis » Wed Nov 21, 2007 6:30 am UTC

Durinia wrote:
fortyseventeen wrote:Personally, I don't think that we need to give a whole lot of actual motivation. There are tons of CS students in universities already, arguably too many. :lol:


Actually, enrollments in many/most CS programs at major universities (in the US, at least) have declined in the neighborhood of 50% over the last 10 years. (Source) The projected CS/IT worker shortfall is enormous. (which is good for job prospects, of course!)

Not saying it's like that everywhere, but at least in the US, CS Educators and industry members are seriously concerned about being able to put out enough students.


Word. Our faculty advisers are both frankly worried about the state of the department and its relationships with the industry if we can't get more students. As it stands, the department is slightly miffed that our Indian and Taiwanese students are going back home instead of staying around and taking a high paying post here (Source: our graduate faculty adviser). Of course, that particular disappointment is entirely patriotic selfishness--the faculty is quite pleased that the opportunities in many other countries have become sufficiently attractive to foreign students that they are able to find quality employment back home.

I also heard a disturbing bit of information from the faculty undergrad adviser: We're going to graduate 150 students between December and May. We're expecting a freshman class of 50. Combined with the fact that she's getting constant calls from the industry saying that all those graduates have jobs already and they need more grads, it's becoming an employee's job market in CS and IT, across the board.

That said, we as people interested need to reach out to students and let them know that while the dot com era died a much-needed death, the Internet is not the driving force behind a lot of the growth in CS and IT: Moore's law is. There are fascinating and exciting fields out there that are paying very well.

So, in order to attract students to CS, and computer-related fields in general, is to show them that it's something that takes a great deal of education, pays well, and you can help people do everything they need or want to do.
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby b.i.o » Fri Nov 23, 2007 2:33 am UTC

castelle wrote:The quickest, simplest way I always try to explain programming elevator-pitch-style is saying "Tell me how to walk across the room" and cartoonishly obeying every little command. It can be quite fun and is a great way to start a presentation, requires absolutely no props and only a little time, and it gets students involved right off the bat.


I like this idea a lot better than the PB&J sandwich. It's funnier and a lot less cliched.

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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby Edit0r » Fri Nov 23, 2007 11:10 am UTC

Show them Haskell. That would've swayed me if I saw it before choosing physics.

Failing that, er, I dunno really. The main appeal of CS for me is the fact it's CS and it's interesting. I guess if it were me you were presenting to, all you'd need to do is show me some cool sorting algorithms...
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby photosinensis » Wed Nov 28, 2007 4:40 am UTC

Here's another idea to attract more people to CS:

Let's get some really smokin' hot models, actors/actresses, and pop idols involved in CS, and then turn them into spokespeople, talking about how {coding, algorithm analysis, big iron, embedded systems, Turing machines, databases, tiny transistors} turn them on.

What? Sex can sell. In fact, this should be used to sell all of the sciences and engineering disciplines. Well, biology doesn't really seem to need it as much, but that's another story.
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby AskWhy2008 » Fri Nov 30, 2007 3:18 am UTC

quintopia wrote:Perhaps they would be enticed by the wit and elegance of Bernard Chazelle himself?

Computers, algorithms, quines, P and NP, decidability, RSA, PCP, ZK, Moore's Law, Shor's Algorithm, and the CS worldview all in one article and all in incredibly clear layman's terms:

http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~chazelle/p ... rithm.html


Well, first I should say that I will be attending Purdue in Computer Science next year, so technically still a high schooler, at least for one more semester.

I haven't had much exposure to what I was diving in head first into, dream has always been to translate software from Japanese to English, and for now still is the plan. But man, that article was out of this world, and it was an amazing read that I will not be able to forget for a long time to come. I only dived into these forums today after re-discovering xbcd, a Futurama science referenced reminded me of the cleverness of geekyness. And this comic is one of the best. But, then to go to the forum, and find this post in particular, thanks mate. You've reignited my interest in learning and trudging through God-awful state required classes.

castelle wrote:Ooh! I'm actually traveling around to high schools this January doing exactly this. Speaking from experience alone, I was quite intimidated to take my first programming class, even though I had excelled in my previous math and science classes. The reason was that I had no real notion of what programming was besides that which movies like Hackers (bless it, nonetheless) had instilled in me. I mistakenly believed that all the guys who lived in the computer labs playing StarCraft and WoW all day and seemed to know a million Windows shortcuts, etc, were not only programmers, but brilliant ones with whom it would take me another 16 years to catch up.

Imagine my surprise at finding them all in the same classroom as me for the lowest-level introductory class imaginable... and not knowing any more of the material than I did! I would love to be able to explain to every high school student who HASN'T considered computer science WHAT exactly it entails. There are a lot of stereotypes that scare away students who might otherwise be very good at this.

The quickest, simplest way I always try to explain programming elevator-pitch-style is saying "Tell me how to walk across the room" and cartoonishly obeying every little command. It can be quite fun and is a great way to start a presentation, requires absolutely no props and only a little time, and it gets students involved right off the bat.


And Castelle, thanks to you my fear has subsided quite a bit about what to expect come next year. Living in a dorm on a campus for my Junior and Senior year has exposed those stereotypes that know every freaking shortcut, and the perception of them being the most ingenious programmers was at the top of my thought process.

To not go too far off topic, I think every suggestion everyone has given is enough to get anyone with enough self-respect interested into what you have to say about CS. I know after reading this I am stoked to learn and focus my energy. But, again I am someone who has always wanted to do program.

Anyways, just wanted to say this thread is epic. Yep, epic seal of approval.

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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby fortyseventeen » Tue Dec 04, 2007 6:10 am UTC

I still think that getting kids interested in CS should be done before HS, for some reason...

Has this video of Alan Kay been posted before? The part of his lecture starting at around 22.5 min. (or 26.5 if you're more impatient) shows what kinds of computer-related tasks that kids respond well to. They relate to things that they already like to do. At 31 (37) min., he shows some of the things that 12-year-olds were able to achieve with Smalltalk after a few months of experience.

Algorithms are great, but have limited usefulness on their own. They're also more difficult for most kids not already interested in CS to wrap their heads around.

EDIT: oops, no link. here: http://www.archive.org/details/AlanKeyD1987
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby segmentation fault » Wed Dec 05, 2007 7:43 pm UTC

tell them they can get a job making video games. it will sell like hotcakes.
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby Azquelt » Wed Dec 19, 2007 1:10 am UTC

Try explaining what cs is, what problems it looks at, why those problems are important and give them some idea of what they'll learn if they do cs.
I would expect most won't know much about cs except that it involves programming.

Also, show them some final year project that's interesting and preferably something they won't have seen before. I remember seeing a computer representation of a marble maze on a tablet pc that worked using accelerometers to detect tilt.

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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby lordofeij » Sat Nov 22, 2008 4:29 pm UTC

Show them a program on the calculator. The program could be some sort of geometry thing because most of them will have already taken be taking geometry. This will show them that programming could help with homework at school.

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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby aleflamedyud » Sun Nov 23, 2008 7:59 am UTC

Have someone go on a wireless network using WEP and then break the encryption and read back to them the webpages they're browsing.
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Re: How to present CS as awesome to HS students?

Postby headprogrammingczar » Sun Nov 23, 2008 1:36 pm UTC

lordofeij wrote:Show them a program on the calculator. The program could be some sort of geometry thing because most of them will have already taken be taking geometry. This will show them that programming could help with homework at school.

My CompSci teacher wanted us to come up with a way to make more people take the class (there were about eight of us); I came up with a calculator program that hacked together a spinning 3D trapezoidal prism (on a TI-83+). I showed them the code, which was one single for loop, and explained the math behind the loop. They had just started learning trigonometry, so needless to say, they were surprised that the math they were learning could actually be useful.
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