Alan Alvarado does not consider himself to be a “computer guy,” but he has created a computer game and built his own website thanks to his computer programming class. The experience has helped the Premier High School of North Austin junior realize that learning to code can help him with his long-term plans.
“A big plan for me is to become a heart surgeon, but that is going to take a long time. I think learning about computers and what is behind websites can really be beneficial on my way there,” said Alan.
As he built a website advocating joining the military, Alan realized becoming a computer programmer for the military could help him pay for medical school.
Premier’s math and coding teacher Craig Stein’s main goal is to help students realized the different career opportunities a computer programming background can make available after graduation.
“In the next twenty years there is going to be a surplus of computer science jobs and not enough people to fill them. That is not just for Austin, but for the whole of the United States. Today we manufacture software or ideas rather than cars. We are providing our students with another subject that is interesting and applicable to real life,” he said.
Sophomore Caitlin Kyle has always been interested in video games, but a career in game design did not seem like a real option for her. When she received the assignment of creating a computer game, she decide to replicate a level of her favorite game, Undertale, so she could understand the coding behind it. Once completed, hers and all the student’s games are posted on the scratch community for people to play. Her game was so accurate that several people have mistaken it for the original.
Since starting the class, Caitlin has designed several other games and is now thinking seriously about a career in game development.
“Before I was just writing scripts and developing characters for video games, but now I know how to code. It would help immensely with animating a game and getting it to production,” she said.
Through the course, students learned that websites and games that seem to be simple have extensive lines of code behind them.
“Everything that happens has to be told to happen. We learned a lot about the difference between explicit and ambiguous commands. The computer has to be told exactly what you want it to do, you can’t assume anything. All of the stuff that looks smooth when playing the game is all a matter of slightly adjusting the coding to make it look that way,” said Mr. Stein.
Junior Hope Boyden wasn’t sure if she would like the class when she first started taking it, but now intends to continue taking the classes next year.
“When I heard about the computer programming class, I figured I might as well try it. If I didn’t like it I wouldn’t have to continue, but it got really interesting. Mainly I want to go into engineering, but on the side I would like to take classes to slowly learn computer programming,” she said.
Of the 24 students taking the class, all of the students who are not seniors intend to take the class next year. The school hopes to build the program into a CTE course that will help students get certification and internships.
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