Sophia is a high-school senior and she is doing her senior year internship with Start Code. She is helping with the coding classes and is also researching new material for our students. Here are her thoughts and impressions on getting started with coding. Take it away, Sophia!
Computer programming always seemed remote, something beyond my capability. When I was around nine years old, my father bought the first desktop computer of the family. It was a very old one. I forgot which model it was but it was box shaped and the screen had very low resolution. I still remember that whenever I turned the computer on, it would first display a blue screen with long lines of code on it. That was where I got my first impression of computer programming. At that time, I was thinking, ‘whoever wrote all of these lines must be a genius. How can anyone remember all of these random symbols! (I had not started learning English back then, so I had no idea what any of those words meant.)’
My first computer class was in fifth grade. I was introduced to the software called PowerPoint. With the help of my teacher, I made my own character on the screen. I learned how to make him move, how to give him sounds, and how to create buttons that controlled his movements. By the end of that school year, I made my own cartoon. Even though it was very short, I was still very proud of myself. PowerPoint might not really count as programming, but it was what opened the door of computer programming for me.
My first real experience with computer programming began in my second year of high school. My skilled and erudite teacher, Mr. Blanck, introduced me to a lot of beginner programming tools including Python, Scratch, and Java. I was surprised at how different coding was from my expectations. Recalling the impressions I had from my first old grandpa computer, I thought coding would be the most tedious and boring thing ever. However, I was surprised at how much fun there is within those lines of code. Mr. Blanck started our classes with Scratch, which totally stirred up my interest. To me Scratch felt like a big box of mixed puzzles, all you have to do is find the right pieces of code and put them all together. The process of learning to code gave me one of the best experiences of my life. I can still remember the joy that I had when I finally finished programming my first computer game. Then, as I went deeper into computer programming, I felt like I had entered a new world. Each different programming tool had its own unique properties and its own surprises. While learning new tools like Python and Java I felt like a kid opening one after another mystery boxes. The more I learned about each programming tool, the more I enjoyed using it. And the knowledge that I had played those games before myself gave me even greater pleasure in making them. For my internship I am assisting with new lesson material including a 3D tool called Unity. With something like this I could even publish my own games.
Learning computer programming was a wonderful experience for me. Truthfully, there had been some times I got very frustrated with some stupid mistakes that I kept on making. But the joy that I experience whenever I get a problem solved is beyond compare. To anyone who is curious about computer programming, I encourage you to give it a try. This class opened a window to an entirely new and fabulous world for me and gave me so many great memories. I wholeheartedly hope that it does the same for you.