Thoughts on my attempted Computer Science club

Lately I’ve been quite busy and I’ve been spending less time on blogging as I would have liked. Indeed I’ve found myself with little time for reading books (which I borrow from the library and intend to read but never do so), or even study math problems. As of now I have books on calculus, number theory, geometry, organic chemistry, game programming, as well as a few novels lying on my desk, pretty much collecting dust and soon to be collecting overdue fees.

As the year’s almost over, there’s a certain rush to complete the last few assignments (especially the Language arts portfolio assignments which are given an entire term but everyone procrastinates them until the last two days before the deadline). There’s also a lot of studying for exams, which again most people complain about but do not spend enough time on (this includes me).

Also there has been some controversy over my score in the Euclid contest earlier this year, which I dare not discuss publicly. I’ve got my first relationship which I’m really happy about; dating is fun (but very unproductive and somewhat addicting). Probably involved in too many extracurricular school clubs, so I’m quite busy.

What happened with the Computer Science club

Over the spring break, I had the idea to start a computer science club at my school. I did some planning work and found some teacher support, and held the first meeting on April 16. Six people came to the first meeting. Not really knowing what to do, I talked about a fairly easy computer science problem.

As the club progressed, it changed unpredictably. At certain times there would be a group of experienced programmers, in which we would discuss more difficult (IOI-level) computer science problems; at other times the group would consist more of people with no programming experience in which I would be forced to abandon the more difficult problems in favor of teaching some programming basics. At other times nobody would show up, forcing me to cancel the meeting. The last computer science club meeting was held on May 26.

The club was clearly not working as well as I would have hoped, although it wasn’t a complete failure. It was moderately successful, given the circumstances.

For next year, I’ve heard about a grant for the school of a pretty large sum of money to the robotics department, and my teacher suggested me to add robotics to the club.

What went wrong with the Computer Science club

There are several reasons I think that the computer science club didn’t do as well as I’d hoped. I’ve been involved in the anime club, debate club, and the environment club so I’ll compare the computer science club to other school clubs that I’m familiar with.

  1. The entry barrier is too high. In the computer science club, the most basic requirement would be proficiency with some programming language, or just knowing how to program. As my school offers no computer science courses, few people in the school can program well. Some math skills are also important for computer science, but you’d be okay if you weren’t extremely good at math. However, if you don’t know how to program there would be little point in discussing arrays, searching, data structures, etc. This is probably the biggest problem with the computer science club, and yet I don’t really have a solution for it. In comparison, the entry barrier is much lower for any other school club: even with no debate experience it is still possible to participate in mock debates or speech games; it’s possible to get up to speed in gardening basics in a few minutes for environment club. In contrast learning a programming language takes weeks at minimum.
  2. There is a very high skill discrepancy between members. Being the mostly self-taught activity computer science is, the skill discrepancies between members is very large. One group of people, a smaller group, is the group of people who can program well. A larger group is a group of people who cannot program. There aren’t many people in-between. Thus, depending on which group predominates at a meeting, we discuss difficult computer science problems or we teach programming basics. This is a problem because teaching programming basics would bore those that can already program, and discussing problems would confuse those that could not program. There is no ‘middle ground’ between the two groups like discussing simple computer science problems: that would be unbeneficial to everyone.
  3. There is little dedication in most members. People decide not to come because they have homework, they’re tired or hungry, or they just forget. This is probably a problem for every school club, while the previous two only really applied to the computer science club. So I don’t have much to say about this.
  4. I failed at adequately advertising the club. Although I advertised my club on Facebook and requested club meetings to be announced on the school bulletin and put up a poster, most people in the school probably don’t know the club exists. As of now it’s still considered ‘unofficial’ as neither the principals nor the student council know that the club exists.

Or perhaps there is just not enough interest in computer science in my school, as just five people wrote the CCC in February, and a handful of people show up to write a math contest.

Thoughts on Robotics

Since it’s been suggested that I incorporate robotics into the club in the future, I’d give my thoughts on that here as well.

The robotics club would build robots for competitions (WorldSkills and others which I don’t remember). Quite a lot of money is required for equipment, and this money is available (in comparison to computer science which can be done for free).

My biggest problem with robotics is that robotics has very little to do with computer science. Both involve some degree of programming, but that aside they are completely different. Thus, my knowledge and experience in computer science would be irrelevant for robotics, and there’s no reason I should lead a robotics club. Also because of this, the idea of combining computer science and robotics is absurd.

If there’s going to be a robotics club next year, it’s going to be very different from the computer science club. We’re predicting that a considerable amount of fundraising would be necessary to pay for the competitions. This has mixed outcomes. For one thing, there would be better dedication in members, and individuals would be more motivated to come since so much money is on the line. On the other hand, the entry barrier would be even higher: it would be very difficult if not downright impossible to join the club after it has started.

I still don’t know whether to re-attempt the computer science club next year, or attempt starting a different club, or not attempt to start anything at all.

One Response to Thoughts on my attempted Computer Science club

  1. Alex says:

    If your still wondering, you could look at FRC (http://www.usfirst.org/), FTC (http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/ftc/), SumoBots (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robot-sumo), or Combat Robotics (Just google it).

    You’re right in saying that programming is not robotics, but the statement is different when inverted:
    Robotics is programming, in part.

    PS It’s great!!!

    PPS that site is extremely low-level, but it’s the best one I’ve actually finished.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 69 other followers

%d bloggers like this: