Summer 2019 Summary

2019-10-23 00:00:00 +0000

The NJCSSA held its third class this summer at Link Charter School. It lasted three and a half weeks and had nine students. The class was another introductory Python course, and we used the updated wombatgame framework.


After the Spring 2019 program, I thought it would be easy and quick to host a summer program. Unfortunately, our partner wasn’t able to host us again, so I had one month to recruit students, find space and computers, and provide breakfast and lunch.

I started making calls to anyone who could help me, including dozens of churches, Rutgers, and the Newark Public Library. I brainstormed ideas on how to get food. I contacted family friends for laptop donations and bought some used laptops just in case. Many of the calls weren’t successful, but eventually some places called back saying they were willing to help.

I was overjoyed when Link Charter School replied. I worked with Link last summer when I was hosting the first Python course. I really liked their computer lab, and they were so accommodating to me as a first time teacher. I had a great experience with their students who were mature beyond their years and great learners. They came through with the full package for NJCSSA: modern computer lab, projector, chalkboard, free breakfast, and free lunch for all students. Link was a wonderful partner to host the second summer program, and I am so grateful for their support.


During the summer course at Link Charter School, students learned about variables, if statements, looping, and functions. They applied these programming concepts by solving programming problems in the wombatgame.

Notes for Wombatgame:

I learned a lot from the ten-week Spring 2019 program and changed several parts of the curriculum based on feedback from students.

Problems I encountered and how I addressed them:

  1. Too much material - better to go deep instead of broad.
    • I shrank the number of topics to just include the basics - variables, if statements, functions, and looping.
  2. Text-based programs are really boring.
    • I went with an almost fully graphical approach by using the wombatgame to teach the course.
  3. The pace was too quick.
    • I made sure to spend multiple days on topics and only move on when everybody had a good understanding.
  4. Students became confused about for loops using indexes and for loops using values.
    • I only taught them while loops.

Guest Speakers

Our first guest speaker was Marisa Sigas. She is a Computer Science major at NJIT, and she interned as a software engineer at United Healthcare this summer. I met her through a party hosted by Newark Kids Code, where she volunteered as a CS teacher. She spoke via video conference to our class about what it’s like to study CS in college, what her job is like, and how she got interested in CS. It was helpful for students to realize that they have a world-class research university in their backyard where they can get a great CS education.

We reached out to several software engineers at Audible because they are headquartered in Newark. Kaylee Kohfeldt, our second guest speaker, accepted our invitation. Kaylee is a software engineer at Audible who works on payment processing and account management. One of the reasons why I contacted her was because she is interested in CS education. She taught a programming workshop for us where students learned how to animate objects using Calico based on their knowledge of Python.

Our last guest speaker was Andrew Trenk. He is a software engineer at Google NYC working on the Google Maps team. His team is responsible for the card that appears on the right of your search results when you search for a specific store, school, location, etc. We initially connected when he saw one of my recruiting posters in a local high school where he was giving a talk. He has been helpful in providing advice to grow the NJCSSA. He gave a presentation on what it’s like to work at Google. Many of the students were impressed with the amenities that come with working at Google. Additionally, he was equally as interesting to NJCSSA instructors who were able to ask deeper software engineering questions.

What's Next

I’m working on setting up the Spring 2020 program. We have some returning instructors, and I still need to reach out to schools for more volunteers. I’m slowly updating the website to add the most recent information. I will be contacting possible locations to host the spring program soon. Once the location is set, I will get in contact with Newark Public Schools to register interested students.

Feel free to contact me: [email protected]

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