YSU CSIS Runs Jackson-Milton Coding Camp

From July 31 to August 4, 2017, the Computer Science and Information Systems Department at YSU conducted a week-long coding camp at Jackson-Milton High School. The camp was created to introduce Jackson-Milton high school and middle school students to various aspects of the computer science field.

With the help of Dr. Bonita Sharif, recent Computer Science and Mathematics graduate Benjamin Clark coordinated several activities that allowed students to experiment with coding and programming. Together, Sharif and Clark created activities that taught the students about computer science topics like binary numbers, error checking, graph coloring, and learning how to give computers commands.

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Throughout the entire camp, students could work individually while focusing their efforts toward a similar goal. Almost every student walked into the camp without any knowledge about coding or programming.

To start off the first part of the camp, each student was introduced to the Raspberry Pi. Through this system, they all learned about programming, basic circuitry, and interacting with their prototype circuits using C++. Shortly after learning these skills, they were then able to use the Raspberry Pi to control the motors on their robots. On their last day, they were introduced to a programmed eye tracker system that allowed the students to play a video game with only their tracked eye movements, nothing else.

All equipment provided in the camp came specifically from the NSF outreach funds presented to Dr. Sharif. The NSF grant was awarded to Dr. Sharif in 2016. To read more about the grant click here.

When speaking to each of the students, it was obvious that they truly loved the aspects of the camp. A high school student, Mackenzie Martin (junior), entirely enjoyed her time in the camp.

“I really loved how easily everyone was able to catch me up with missing the first few days of the camp,” said Martin. “They broke everything down really well even though I was behind everyone else.”

Another high school student, Garrik Cataina (freshman), commented that “the entire camp was so well rounded. I enjoyed all of it: the socializing at lunch time, talking with the volunteers, and learning how to code.”

Dr. Sharif also spoke very highly of her experience at Jackson-Milton, saying “we are very thankful to Mr. Vega, Jackson Milton High School’s principal, for the venue to conduct the camp.”

She would also like to give credit to the YSU SERESL volunteers that assisted with the program throughout the week: Alex Bonnette, Alexandra Fountaine, Devin Patrick, Christopher Hardaway, Mark DeGenova, Bob Collins, Natalie Halavick, and Nick Iovino.

“My favorite part about the camp was getting the students to understand what computer science is about,” said Dr. Sharif. “I enjoyed being able to provide them with hands-on experiences where they could troubleshoot and debug issues what popped up.”

This was the first coding camp YSU has done at Jackson-Milton, but they intend to continue doing them annually. For more information about the camp, or future computer-related camps, contact Dr. Sharif at bsharif@ysu.edu.

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Miniature Bridge Building Competition

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The eighth annual Miniature Bridge Building Competition, which is hosted by YSU and sponsored by Mahoning and Trumbull County Engineers, ms consultants, inc., and many other local businesses, took place on February 27, and 17 high schools from the area comprised 32 teams.

High school students test their civil engineering skills at this competition by trying to build the strongest bridge with the least amount of mass. Students aren’t able to build the bridges beforehand, though. They must set up in the morning in Kilcawley Center and build their bridge out of balsa wood and Elmer’s glue; then, after lunch — even if their bridges aren’t fully dried yet — the bridges are put to the test.

“That’s one of the things — they bring hair dryers to dry them, but if you dry them too much it’ll dry the wood out, making it have less strength. There’s a fine line,” said Carol Lamb, Director of the School of Engineering Technology.

Western Reserve High School’s Team B took home first place for most efficient bridge, which held almost 160 pounds before breaking, and Lowellville High School’s Team B took home second place for most efficient, which held almost 80 pounds before breaking.

Other awards at the event include the Aesthetics Award, which was awarded to Poland High School’s Team B; the Most Improved award, which was awarded to the Youngstown Early College’s Team A; the Teamwork Award, which was given to Mineral Ridge’s Team A; the Wade Harvey Design Award, which was given to Jackson Milton’s Team A; and the Strength Award, which was awarded to Western Reserve High School’s Team B.