Conant’s CompSci Kids! provides opportunity for young community members to learn computer science

Photos by Nisha Pant

From Google to Twitter, the Internet dominates human life. As a result, computer science has become an increasingly popular discipline. Conant students Nisha Pant, ‘19, and Yousef Ahmed, ‘19, have taken an initiative to spread the importance of computer science to younger students. Pant and Ahmed founded Conant’s first Computer Science club: CompSci Kids!.

The club consists of Conant students who are trained to teach computer science classes for students in grades 1-8. Each session includes 12 classes held at Conant, running from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 pm.

The club’s first session ran from Oct. 22 to Nov. 19.

Pant, explaining the realization that sparked inspiration for the club, said, “At the beginning of last year, we realized that not a lot of kids were coming into high school with a background in computer science.”

Ahmed explained that computer science is underrepresented in junior high schools and elementary schools. “When I came into high school, I was intimidated by computer science, like the course was available to me but I was unsure of whether to take it or not. So, the only reason I ended up taking it was because my dad encouraged me to.”

Along with Pant and Ahmed, the board consists of four more seniors: Saurav Sumughan, Michelle Zhang, Darsh Dalal, and Nikita Basu. “They help us lead the classes and have helped create the curriculum,” Pant said.

“We also have Conant students join the club, as they are going to be helping out when the main teachers are leading,” Pant explained. “For example, if the teacher is leading the class, and we give the students instructions, you know they’re going to forget, they’re little kids.”

Structure of Classes

Ahmed explained the structure of the sessions, “We created curriculums over the summer and essentially, it varies by group. So, we have groups by grades from 1-3, 5-6, [and] 7-8.”  

The board members tailor each class to suit the age level. “You can’t teach a 1st grader the same thing as an 8th grader. So, for the 1st to 3rd graders, we have more unplugged activities,” Ahmed said.

One of these activities includes a real-life maze, where the students are partnered up to direct each other through the maze. Pant and Dalal lead levels 1-3, as they help students build algorithm concepts that parallel with instructions given to a computer.

Ahmed and Basu lead levels 4-6, where they teach some unplugged activities and introduce block style coding.

“[Block coding] is through this program called Alice, and they drag and drop segments of code. They don’t have to know how to write out programing sentences right there. They can drag stuff off and visually see what that’s doing,” Ahmed explained.

Ahmed said that the end-of-session goal for them is to create their own mini project.

Zhang and Sumughan lead levels 7-8, in which the kids are exposed to actual coding through Visual Basics, which prepares them for the high school curriculum.

“[The class is] similar to what you will be learning in Visual Basics [in high school], and the goal is for those kids to directly go into AP Principles,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed said he hopes to increase the earlier exposure so that kids can come to high school with confidence in their computer science skills. “The most exciting part for me is seeing how the kids learn. I want the kids to be engaged in comp sci, so seeing that happen would be a really nice experience for me.”

Pant also hopes to build confidence in kids. “My favorite part of the club right now is being able to come together with other people to enjoy computer science and spread our passions to younger kids.”

CompSci Kids! is offering two more student-led sessions in February and April.

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