High School Students Told, ‘The World Needs Software Engineers’ at Coding Competition
For Immediate Release; photos on Flickr
Galloway, N.J. – “The world needs software engineers,” said Robert Heinrich, chief information officer for Information Technology Services at Stockton University, to the next generation of technology consumers and creators.
Nearly 130 students from 11 high schools in Atlantic, Ocean, Monmouth and Cape May counties participated in the Computer Science Teachers Association South Jersey (CSTA-SNJ) computer science competition at Stockton University.
“Our lives will only continue to be augmented by technology and the devices that support our daily lives,” Heinrich continued.
Holding up his cell phone, he noted that everyone in the room had one nearby. “It’s safe to say that nothing would be possible without programming in our current generation. Every device that you use as part of your daily lives has some level of programming code controlling those devices,” he explained.
The CSTA-SNJ competition challenged students with seven problems that require the Java programming language to code solutions.
“The ability to Google an answer to a question is pretty easy and just about a matter of seconds. It’s the analytical problem solving and critical thinking skills that are going to allow you to succeed in today’s society. I’m a strong believer that the ability to program is a necessary skill set as part of our education today,” said Heinrich.
Adam Swift, a computer science teacher at Egg Harbor Township High School, vice president of CSTA-SNJ and an adjunct instructor at Stockton, brought students to compete because “it’s a good opportunity for them to showcase their skills against other students and to get real-world examples in a competitive environment.”
For some teams of competitors, it was their first competition and an introduction to the many fields within computer science.
“Your interest in programming is really going to be a strong first step towards ensuring that you have a solid career when you finish school. The number of coding jobs is only expected to increase over time,” said Heinrich, noting that research estimates that almost seven million jobs are open across the U.S. right now in the field of technology.
One basic Java course was all it took for Rachel Bosko, a junior at Brick Township High School, to see the power of programming. She finds it empowering to program practical applications.
Shaurya Kumar, a student at Toms River North High School, said, “I love problem solving. Most classes don’t see applications, but computer science is different because we get to see the real-life applications.”
Lynne Kesselman, founder and president of CSTA-SNJ, a former computer science teacher at Egg Harbor Township High School and Stockton’s first lady, explained that the competition, now in its second year, was created to expand coding opportunities to students in South Jersey.
In her 14-year teaching career, she traveled to North Jersey to offer her students opportunities to compete, which led her to create competitions in the southern part of the state.
“I love when students are more creative than you could even imagine. Technology can be uncomfortable, but with a spark of confidence, students are off and running on their own, creating great projects,” Kesselman said.
Competitions and coding events “help students to succeed and set them up for bright futures,” she added.
Sunnie Yousaf, a Stockton transfer student and event volunteer, was one of Kesselman’s former high school students.
Early exposure to coding helped to demystify the science and gave Yousaf the confidence to rise up in a male-dominated field. Of Kesselman, she said, “Her curriculum didn’t deter you and the feeling she left you with was that you can take on the world.”
Demetrios Roubos, assistant director of Information Systems and security administrator, designed the coding challenges, which were judged by Stockton faculty and students and other guest judges.
Roubos, a two-time Stockton graduate with a bachelor’s in Computer Science and Information Systems and a master’s in Computational Science, said, “I’m a lifelong learner and have been interested in computer science since I was a kid.”
Unlike students today, he didn’t have opportunities to code in competitions because they just didn’t exist then. Giving the students of today these opportunities is so rewarding, he explained.
One challenge Roubos designed was the scuttle bug problem. “The idea is that there’s a bug in a maze. Students have to program the logic to get the bug out of the maze by implementing the bug’s vision and movement using the scan method,” he said.
The correct code allows the bug to make random moves until it escapes, which could require a thousand steps. “Optimizing this is the next step. An artificial intelligence algorithm gets the bug out faster than random steps,” said Roubos, encouraging the students to start thinking about this solution.
Matthew Lepis, of Brick Township High School, said “it was fun to work with my group.”
Programming is his first choice for a career and the competition is one step in his preparation for his dream job.
The winning teams are as follows:
Twins Matthew and Joseph Signorelli and Kate Kennelly, of Toms River North High School
Andrew Schembor, Bobby Villaluz and Jack McNally, of Red Bank Regional High School
Jack Glauber, Dylan McRae and Makoto Brown, of Red Bank Regional High School
Ford Zacks, Damanbir Sahi and Harry Jain, of Red Bank Regional High School
Angel Pan, Ethan Voorhees and Aidan Brown, of Brick Township High School
The event was made possible by the following donors: Stockton’s Offices of the Provost and President, the Southern Regional Institute and Educational Technology Training Center, Troxell, Enroute, Sam’s Club, Icon Hospitality, Lenovo, Michelle Wendt, Tony DiPietro and Antoinette MacQueen.
The 3rd Annual Computer Science Teachers Association South Jersey computer science competition is planned for Friday, March 16, 2018.