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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ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest

Each year, Youngstown State University’s Association for Computing Machinery participates as one of four host sites for the International Collegiate Programming Contest in the East Central North America Region.

The programming contest attracts students from colleges and universities throughout Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Western Pennsylvania, and Eastern Ontario.

Dr. Bonita Sharif and Robert Gilliland from the Computer Science and Information Systems Department are the Site Directors for the YSU location, and Dr. Robert Kramer, also from YSU’s CSIS department, is the Regional Director for the competition.

This year, the competition took place on October 28 & 29 in Meshel Hall.

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For the contest, each team of three students is given a set of ten problems to solve on one computer station within five hours, each independent and a different level of difficulty. The students must come up with a computer program to solve each problem while being timed and checked for errors.

Backpacks were awarded as prizes to the top teams at YSU this year, awarded by Regional Director Dr. Kramer. Every participant received a shirt, a flash drive, and a certificate of achievement signed by the ICPC Executive Director, Dr. William Poucher.

Winners selected from this region will advance to the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest World Finals, to be held in Rapid City, South Dakota on May 20-25, 2017.

This year was the tenth year that Youngstown State University has been a competition site and has been the largest competition site in the region since 2007.