Computer whiz kids plug into mentor role

By: Penne Usher Telegraph Correspondent
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A group of Oak Ridge High School students aim to dispel the geeky aspect of computer science and increase interest in the subject. Members of the school’s science club, started by 17-year-old Ayesha Mazumdar in August, visit area middles schools sharing their knowledge with up and coming high school students. AP Computer Science, a college level course, became part of Oak Ridge curriculum just last year. Mazumdar said that it was the first class that led to her desire to make it her college major which in turn led to the senior’s decision to form the computer club. “My mom and I were at an administrative presentation at Rensselaer (Polytechnic Institute) where it was suggested to start a science club,” Mazumdar said. “I wanted to perpetuate more technical geeks and show the fun side of computer science.” Teacher Stephanie Allen supported the idea and said she couldn’t be prouder of her students. “They are working hard to change the stereotype of the computer scientist — from someone who sits in front of the computer all day long — to someone who enjoys the challenge of problem solving and collaborating with their peers,” Allen said. “Programming is fun.” Each week members of the club visit Marina Village and Rolling Hills to offer assistance and share their growing expertise with the middle school students. Bill Kish’s computer science class at Marina Village is reaping the benefits of the Oak Ridge computer science club. “At this level they are learning the basics,” he said. “We are hoping for more classes at the high school level to allow the students to continue to grow and learn more.” Bill Cao, 16, is a junior at Oak Ridge and a member of the science club who was helping out during last week’s visit to Marina. “The students are currently working on a large project and we are here to help troubleshoot any problems,” Cao said. “Right now they are working to create a game with a winner, loser and a way to show scoring.” Sarah Vysotsky, 13, an eighth-grader at the middle school, was busily working on her computer game, and said computer science wasn’t her first choice for an elective. “It’s challenging and fun at the same time,” Vysotsky said. “My mom wanted me to learn more about computers to better my future, and I’m glad she encouraged me to take the class.” Currently the AP computer science classes at Oak Ridge, which are college prep classes, only admit juniors and seniors. Allen and Kish both hope to see more classes offered for freshman and sophomores.