NEWARK – A growing computer science program at Worcester Technical High School is giving more and more students an introduction to information technology.
Teachers Aarti Sangwan and Mary Miller provided the Worcester County Board of Education with an overview of Worcester Tech’s computer science program this week. Miller said the program, which is in just its fourth year, was providing skills and experience that would help students after high school.
“Students in our program have this opportunity to come right out of this program and go right (to work) in the community, or what the majority of our students do, they do go to college,” she said.
According to Sangwan, the program was started four years ago to provide Worcester Tech students the Project Lead The Way computer science pathway. Sangwan, who was initially the only computer science teacher, was joined by Miller three years ago. The program has now grown to include 90 students who are offered four classes — computer science essentials, foundations of computer science, cyber security and AP computer science principles.
Miller said the introductory class, computer science essentials, gave students a taste of what they were getting into.
“If you’ve ever heard ‘don’t just play on your phones, program them,’ that’s what they get to do,” she said.
From there, students go on to program robots and learn text-based programming. The final class in the program is cyber security.
“They work on the ethics of conduct, both in their personal life and company’s life,” Miller said. “They get to talk about—debate—what you do in cyber security, what should you do, and what you protect against.”
Sangwan said the majority of the students in the program, 74%, came from Stephen Decatur High School while 15% came from Pocomoke High School and 11% came from Snow Hill High School. While most students are boys, Sangwan said there were several programs, such as Girls Go Cyber, that were meant to encourage more girls to explore the field.
“In this program we focus a lot on project based learning so that way students can focus on what they like to and express themselves creatively in the course,” she said.
Miller said an externship with Cards Technology that she’d done over the summer had allowed her to ensure the program taught the skills students really needed in the IT field.
“They taught me everything I needed to know so that when our students come out of high school they can go and work in the industry right here,” she said.
Cards has also partnered with the program to offer internship opportunities. Senior Myra Cropper told the board interning at Cards had given her valuable hands-on experience.
“I’m able to use the skills that I’ve learned in the first three computer science classes and apply that to some real-world applications,” she said, adding that it had broadened her view of IT. “It’s really given me kind of an insight into what these industries look like. This before wasn’t really something I thought about doing as a job but now it is. There’s really more that goes into IT and cybersecurity than I thought about.”
Superintendent Lou Taylor praised the success of the growing program and encouraged Cropper and Murphy to use what they were learning to do good.
“Certainly, you’re two bright shining stars to help lead our country into the next phase of technology,” he said. “It’s my wish as I become an older citizen now that the things you will do will help our country become a better country.”