What To Tell Students About Computer Science

BridgeDrLast Friday I drove down to Cape Cod. Just over the Cape Cod canal via the Bourne Bridge is Upper Cape Tech. They have an outstanding culinary arts program and while I really did enjoy lunch and conversation in the culinary arts restaurant I was mainly there to talk to students about careers in computer science. I was able to talk to the 10th and 12th graders who are part of the computer program at UCT. I talk to students quite often and there are various ways of going about it. (Note if you are in driving distance from my home office in southern New Hampshire I would love to come and visit your school and talk to your students.)

I can go the old PowerPoint way with lots of pictures and abstract talk about careers and how exciting things in the industry are. I do that from time to time with general audiences. Students are career technical schools, especially those already in computer programs, are a bit of a different audiences. I have a warm place in my heart for them. These schools seem to have a greater than average share of out of the box thinkers. So what do I like to do there? I like to show off exciting technology rather than PowerPoint slides.

Obviously I brought my Kinect. The demo programs that come with the Kinect for Windows SDK are great for bringing students a look into the magic of software. The Skeletal view lets me show the depth perception, the VGA camera and of course the skeleton tracking. And just to make it real we took a short look though the code. I think I need to work up a little code from scratch demo for next time though. That would be even more cool. I think a couple of the students were thinking about what they might do with Kinect given how interested they were in what languages they could code for it in. (C#, C++ and Visual Basic BTW)

I also demoed a little Windows Phone coding and installed my Whack Something Game for Windows Phone 7 on my Phone live. I also showed them how easily Visual Studio would create a new project from that one targeted at Windows or Xbox 360. We talked a bit about the input differences on different platforms as well.

And then I took questions for about half an hour. For me that is by far the most fun. A lot of questions come up time and again of course. But always some new ones. I have to admit that Friday was the first time someone asked where they could get a Microsoft log shirt like the one I was wearing. I really appreciated the warm welcome I received at Upper Cape Tech from students and faculty alike. I hope to be back or perhaps have them up to the Microsoft office in Cambridge in the near future.

Basically my message for students is that computer science is about world changing technology. It is fun, it is exciting, it is constantly changing and if you have a passion for it you can have the time of your life. I’m even more excited about computer science than I was almost 40 years ago when I took my first programming course. TO me that is what it is all about.

By the way, you really want to watch and show others this Kinect inspiration video called the Kinect Effect

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