When tasked with observing the HSLA Freshman Computer Science Fellows, I admit I was nervous. I, perhaps like many others, have stereotyped what it looks like to write and develop code: too difficult and too technical to be interesting to the average person. But the energy in classroom 803 at SA Hudson Yards was infectious, and my initial intimidation of coding was overpowered by fascination.
THE SUMMER CAMP
The HSLA Computer Science Fellowship is a four-week summer intensive course with Giant Machines. Through this partnership, select rising ninth grade scholars participate in a two year program that allows them to delve into the world of data science and coding.
From horror-themed choose your own adventures, to classic card games and outfit planning fashion websites, and even restaurant locators — each scholar truly unleashed their creativity, leaving my jaw hanging and eyes in disbelief.
CREATIVITY IN CODE
I sat in the back of the classroom and watched as scholars collaborated to formulate a command line application. “Should we create an ice cream calculator?” one scholar asked. “What about matching your horoscope to the ice cream flavor?” their friend suggested. They got to work, and I quickly noticed an unexpected piece to coding: creativity!
To code is to create your own world. I watched as scholars pieced together application and game ideas that could only be described as impressively innovative.
Two HSLA-Manhattan scholars, Maya Sarr and Arianna Lu, created an online game based off of the 1940’s murder of Elizabeth Short, titled Black Dahlia for their final presentation.
The “change her fate” application is complete with a script, multiple choice questions, typewriter and collapse effects, many shocking endings, and sounds to make the user’s experience engulfing. Maya and Arianna used their imaginations to create a game design with the player’s experience at the forefront; they said “we’re most proud of the typewriter effect, because it gives an eerie and anxiety-inducing feeling, like how we would imagine someone to feel if this game was in real life.”
SPEAKING THE LANGUAGE
So, here’s what I learned: In some ways, coding and programming are similar to creating art. Just like artists, programmers think of how their code will change and impact society, what it will look like, how it will be perceived by others — and they complete their project with a level of technicality that may not be recognized by the untrained eye. Scholars transported themselves to another world of their own choosing, immersing their fantasies and ideas in their computer skills — I realized that spending their summer online wasn’t an escape, but rather a playground for their imagination.
I also learned that programmers are curious and innovative, whimsical and original. Building their own worlds one line of code at a time, coders are problem solvers that aim to change the world. This form of creative expression is impossible without talent, intellect, and practice — and happens to be a great way to spend your summer.
By Jennifer Mills, Communications Associate