LIVERMORE — Students from three Tracy high schools spent last week learning computer programming in a class at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
“We teach them about how to use computers to solve problems and explain real-world stuff,” said Richard Newton, a Tracy High School computer science teacher, who led the class. “Doesn’t really matter what (professional) field the student enters. All fields have to do with computer programming.”
Eight high school students learned a computer language called NetLogo that they used to create a program to visually explain how carbon moves through various zones, including the atmosphere, the ocean and underground.
The participants were Tracy High students Pallavi Adapa, Colin Axner, and Christopher Chen, who will be seniors this year; D.J. Coleman and Elijah Williams, who will be juniors at Millennium High; Prabh Mann and Sina Hussaini, both entering their junior year at Kimball High; and Samantha Londynsky, a graduate of Monte Vista High in Danville.
“Cool (program),” Hussaini said on the first day of the class, July 27. “I like programming and doing it in groups. We can use it in any career.”
Chen said he enjoyed the opportunity to meet people and gain computer skills.
“It’s a small class, so we get more one-on-one time,” he said. “I’m excited to get into the carbon cycle. We can use this as an introduction to programming. We can use it for high-tech business creations.
“It’s what I expected, and at the same time we’re learning lots of new things,” he added.
The class marks Newton’s second year teaching programming at the lab to his students and students from other area high schools. Each year, teachers from participating high schools pick who will represent their schools in the summer program.
When they enter the class, the students typically have little or no experience in computer programming, Newton said.
“I just picked three students I had last year that I knew I would have this coming year, so I could follow up with them,” he said. “I will be teaching them computer programming this year, and this will be helpful to have. They will be a step ahead of everybody else.”
Newton said his Tracy High students would use Java in his AP computer science class, while the course at the lab used NetLogo. He said the two programming languages have a lot of similarities.
About one in 10 high schools now offers computer science, and more should be teaching it, Newton said. Millennium is adding a class in computer science this year, and Kimball High math teacher Crystal Wong, who volunteered at the lab program, hopes to introduce it at her school next year, he said.
After the program concluded Friday, Newton said the students enjoyed the experience.
“I think it was awesome,” he said. “I think they had a really good time. They’re excited to start the school year and start doing computer programming.”