June 21, 2024
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RKYHS Introduces College Level Computer Science Program

Building a computer from scratch? A Stanford University course on self driving cars? Critiquing a professor’s computer model for when we will achieve herd immunity? These are just some of what students in the RKYHS computer science program are embarking on this year.

The RKYHS computer science program now includes an expanded full four year sequence of courses with the addition of Advanced Topics in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence and Quantitative Computer Science and Data Modeling, along with AP Computer Science A and Introduction to Computer Science, and the Scientific Research Training Institute /Independent Research in Computer Science. The RKYHS computer science program operates both parallel to and under the umbrella of the RKYHS four year STEM sequence.

The Quantitative Computer Science and Data Modeling class applies a variety of techniques from mathematics and computer science to the real-world data modeling practiced by engineers and scientists. For example, students are learning epidemiology for pandemics with computer simulations related to figuring out the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines and herd immunity. Some of the tools covered include linear algebra, Bayesian estimation, Monte Carlo simulations and Fourier analysis.

Students in the project-based Advanced Topics in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence are able to experience an undergraduate, college-level seminar in computer science. As part of a course at Hebrew University that enables them to receive college credit, students are learning how to build a computer completely from scratch, starting from simple logic gates, creating computer memory, computer arithmetic, a simple CPU, an operating system and creating their own programming language. Later this year, students will take part in a Stanford University course that will explore machine learning, neural networks and artificial intelligence including a system that recognizes simple images, similar to what is used for self-driving cars and computer vision. The course will also explore cryptography enabling students to understand the secret codes that underlie all of the internet’s security, as well as to create Bitcoin and other modern uses of cryptography.

These new computer science courses are being taught by Dr. W. Scott Stornetta, a leader in the field. Dr. Stornetta received his Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University as well as degrees, studies and positions from MIT, BYU and Rutgers. He also held positions at Bell Labs and was one of the developers/inventors of BlockChain. Dr. Stornetta’s research interests include neural networks, cryptography and a variety of topics in behavioral economics.

Prior to taking the advanced classes, RKYHS students first receive a computer science foundation in ninth grade in Introduction to Computer Science and Engineering. They utilize the Python programming language, the basics of computer programming, as well as circuitry, robotics, 3D design skills, virtual reality, augmented reality, HTML/CS, and web design. Students can move on to Programming for Robotics where they use programming and design skills and use them to build and program robots. Moving through the track students take AP Computer Science A, equivalent to a first semester college course in computer science, focusing on object oriented programming using the Java programming language.

“The computer science courses I am taking now build on the foundation I received in the earlier grades and are helping prepare me for the college STEM path I will be pursuing,” commented RKYHS senior Maya Stein. “The classes allow me to utilize skills to research and solve real-world issues.”

“It is an exciting time to be teaching these advanced computer science courses. The classes enable students to be exposed to high level computer science topics and methods not typically accessible at the high school level,” commented Dr. Stornetta. “It is a pleasure to teach these skills to engaged students and the next generation of computer scientists and engineers.”

An elective option is also available to students as part of the RKYHS Scientific Research Training Institute (SRTI) /Independent Research in Computer Science that provides the participating students with unique and advanced training in investigating real world computer science initiatives based on topics of student interest. Using a classic mentor-student approach, students learn how to analyze computer science initiatives being investigated in the world today, read academic research on the topic, and learn how to design (and redesign) programs that will help further investigate an understanding of the topic. As part of this program students investigate topics in Big Data, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

“In the RKYHS Computer Science program, we like to follow a mantra of ‘make what you use and use what you make’ and our students are using the skills that they are learning to create and build meaningful tools for the rest of the school to use,” commented RKYHS Computer Science faculty member Abbey Roth. “At all levels of the program students are creating—10th graders have been building a website to highlight the Computer Science and Engineering program, the ninth grade is building a website to highlight the COVID testing efforts in the school, the AP Comp Sci A class is currently investigating the ability to automatically generate product reviews and rate products as well as the ethical considerations of using computer science in this way, all applying the many skills they have developed through the RKYHS Computer Science program.”

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