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Help students explore their interests by encouraging participation in computing competitions, scholarships and events.

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Computing student opportunities

Lesson plans

Explore TryComputing.org's collection of interactive pre-university computing lessons below.

Graphics: Calculating Color

paint bottlesIn a digital world we take color for granted. Through off-computer activities, students learn the difference between additive and subtractive color, and how images are generated on screen and transferred to physical print.

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Graphics: Bits and Points

pixel vanComputer graphics dominates young people’s lives. Their worldview is heavily influenced by pixels. This lesson uses age appropriate experiences to explain the difference between bitmap (raster) and vector graphics. The lesson covers how information is lost when it is digitized, and how computer graphics techniques can both enhance images, and provide vehicles for corrupting them. It also introduces some ideas on how to efficiently schedule a task.

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Fibonacci via Recursion and Iteration

shellThis lesson introduces how to calculate an arithmetic series, specifically Fibonacci. In the first of two hour-long sessions, using a spreadsheet (e.g. Microsoft Excel or Google Drive Sheets), students are shown how to calculate a series based on two prior values (the iterative solution), and by using a user-defined function (the recursive solution). With a large enough domain, most computers will exhibit real delays in calculating the recursion for values greater than 30. In the second session, they will explore why the iterative solution is faster, and why the recursive solution significantly slows down for large values. This lesson assumes that the teacher is well versed in using spreadsheets, including copy-down formulas.

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Encryption – All About Code

lock on tabletStudents learn how alphanumeric symbols can be encoded for a multitude of fun purposes. In the first of two sessions (each 2 hours long) they learn about codes, and are asked to make their own with a limited number of symbols. In the second session they are asked to break each other’s codes and discover the relationship among encryption, decryption, and shared keys.

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Concurrency Means Cooperation

chopsticksThis lesson provides a number of kinesthetic exercises that illustrate how teamwork can contribute to efficient problem solutions. The lesson includes practice in figuring out how to divide up a problem, and reassemble it. Students also explore how scientists use the Internet and idle computing power to do calculations on volunteer machines. If possible, with sufficient teacher expertise, students set up a computer to contribute to solving such a problem.

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Circuits and Boolean Expressions

strawsBoolean logic is essential to understanding computer architecture. It is also useful in program construction and Artificial Intelligence. This lesson is a gentle introduction to formal logic using Boolean notation, and Circuits. Students learn the basic rules by playing the role of logic gates in a half adder and full adder. Free logic gate construction software available online can be incorporated optionally.

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Boolean Algebra is Elementary

pixel vanSherlock Holmes delighted in saying ‘It’s elementary, my dear Watson’. This lesson provides a brief overview of how Boolean algebra provides the basis for artificial intelligence reasoning. The rules of propositional logic are introduced in the context of the kind of ‘AI’ found in role-playing games both on the computer and off.

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AI Search: Lions and Gazelles

lionThis is an introduction to Artificial Intelligence (AI) ‘state-space search.’ The entertaining story line provides necessary background justifying the classic rules. Students will write and perform a skit that solves the problem using pre-made paper props, as they explore the concept of state representation. This is followed by an informal analysis of state-space, state representations, depth- and breadth-first search, and shortest path.

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"Program Your Own Game" Lesson

game programming software screenshotThe "Program Your Own Game" activity explores the work of software engineers and allows student teams to develop their own computer game using free and simple software. Teams present their game to their class, evaluate other games, and reflect on the engineering experience.

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"Arduino Blink Challenge" Lesson

hands working on arduino boardThe "Arduino Blink Challenge" lesson explores how computer and software engineers work to solve the challenges of a society, such as providing systems for turning lights on and off automatically. Students work in teams to set up and program an Arduino board to turn a light on and off at a 5 second on and 2 second off interval. Teams build their system, program and test it, reflect on the challenge, and present their experiences to their class.

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King's Quest
Roberta Williams

Video games immerse users in a world of high tech thrills, stunning visuals, unique challenges, and interactivity. They enable users to become a warrior princess or a gruesome ghoul, create a virtual persona, or even develop worlds that other gamers can play on. But before the games of today became reality, they were the dreams of a few innovative individuals.

Roberta Williams is considered one of the pioneers of gaming as we know it today. During the 80’s and 90’s along with husband Ken Williams through their company On-Line Systems, she developed some of the first graphical adventure games. These included such titles as Mystery House, Wizard and the Princess and the popular King’s Quest series. Williams also helped introduce more girls and women to the world of gaming by bringing games developed from a woman’s perspective to mainstream market.

Router
Sandra Lerner

It is difficult to imagine a time when computers were not capable of sharing information and resources with great ease. Sandra Lerner pushed the boundaries of network computing as one of the co-founders of Cisco Systems, which introduced one of the first commercially viable routers. The router was born while Sandra was working at Stanford University in the 1980’s after earning her Master’s degree there in Computer Science. To avoid the tedious task of transferring information between computers using floppy disks, she and co-founder of Cisco, Leonard Bosack, created a local area network, or LAN, between their campus offices using a multiprotocol router that Bosack developed. Shortly thereafter the pair started Cisco Systems, and began selling the router which was a success, because it could work with so many different types of computers. After Leaving Cisco in 1990, Lerner started the trendy cosmetics company Urban Decay and became a philanthropist and avid activist for animal rights.

@ symbol
Ray Tomlinson
Ray Tomlinson

Have you ever considered that someone, at some point, was in a position to choose what symbol would be used separate the user from their location in an email address? That person, it turns out, was Ray Tomlinson, and in 1971 he chose "@". Tomlinson is credited with demonstrating the first email sent between computers on a network, and when asked what inspired him to make this selection he said, “Mostly because it seemed like a neat idea.”

After completing his Master’s degree at MIT in 1965, Ray joined the Information Sciences Division of Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Since then he has made many notable contributions to the world of network computing. He was a co-developer of the TENEX computer system that was popular in the earliest days of the Internet; he developed the packet radio protocols used in the earliest internetworking experiments; he created the first implementation of TCP; and he was the principle designer of the first workstation attached to the Internet.

Bletchley Park
Dr. Sue Black
Dr. Sue Black

Dr. Sue Black has demonstrated the power of social networking. She used Web 2.0 technologies to help raise awareness of, and critical funding for, Bletchley Park, the UK World War II center for decrypting enemy messages. She has also been an active campaigner for equality and support for women in technology fields, founding a number of online networking platforms for women technology professionals. A keen researcher, Dr. Black completed a PhD in software measurement in 2001. Her research interests focus on software quality improvements. She has recently won the PepsiCo Women's Inspiration Network award, been named Tech Hero by ITPRO magazine and was awarded the first John Ivinson Award from the British Computer Society. In 2011 Dr. Black set up The goto Foundation, a nonprofit organization which aims to make computer science more meaningful to the public, generate public excitement in the creation of software, and build a tech savvy workforce. Read Sue's blog about The goto Foundation: http://gotofdn.org

Cursor
James Dammann

If you have used a word processor today, moved your mouse on your laptop, dragged an object around on your smartphone, or highlighted a section of text on your tablet, you can thank Jim Dammann. In 1961 during his second year at IBM and just one year after completing his PhD, Jim created the concept of what today we all take for granted -- the cursor. This idea he documented in utilizing the cursor within word processing operations.

After retiring from IBM, Jim went on to inspire future generations of software engineers at Florida Atlantic University. His work there too demonstrated his creativity for he spent considerable effort enhancing their software engineering program by integrating ideas and feedback from local industries into the University curricular. Today, Jim lives in the Westlake Hills west of Austin Texas and spends most of his time in his art studio. He wrote and published The Opaque Decanter, a collection of poems about art, which provided a new view at part of art history.

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