Argonne Summer Camp Advances Computer Science Education

September 29, 2022 — At the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, a summer camp is more than just a stand-alone science experiment: it’s part of a larger, multi-camp journey to coding , which extends from middle school to high school. school and beyond.

Students at Argonne’s Big Data Camp discover Aurora, the lab’s future supercomputer. Credit: Argonne/Educational Programs and Awareness.

As part of Argonne’s commitment to supporting the growth of future leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), Argonne hosts several interconnected summer camps that focus on one critical STEM area: coding and Computer Science.

“Learning to code is critical in our increasingly digital workplace and society,” said John Domyancich, Argonne Learning Center Manager. “These computer skills open countless avenues and opportunities. To be most effective, we need to introduce and support the skills in middle school and high school. Therefore, we design these camps to build student confidence and proficiency in writing of code to investigate and solve problems.”

The Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF), a DOE Office of Science user facility, plays a key role in the summer camps by helping to develop the curriculum, teach coding lessons and lead facility tours that give students a first-hand look at the lab’s supercomputers.

The first camp to take place every summer is CodeGirls. The five-day program serves as the first step for girls in grades six and seven to experience coding for the first time, no previous experience or knowledge necessary. More than just introducing girls to the basics of coding like the Python coding language, the camp also invites female lab researchers to visit the camp and share how they turned their coding interests into successful careers.

Isabella Schultz, 12, after attending CodeGirls this summer, plans to apply what she learned about coding platforms at camp to weather projects at a weather club she founded in Utah. school.

CodeGirls campers and staff meet virtually. Credit: Argonne/Educational Programs and Awareness.

Like CodeGirls, Coding for Science Camp focuses primarily on Python and also does not require students to have prior coding experience. However, Coding for Science Camp caters to high school students rather than college students, and therefore offers more detailed and challenging experiences. In particular, Coding for Science offers coding activities that connect computational science with current scientific challenges such as disease modeling.

“I used to think STEM and coding fields were good, but they weren’t for me — they wouldn’t be that interesting or challenging,” said high school camper Akshara Arvind. “I was definitely wrong, because there’s a lot more once you start coding.”

Finally, Big Data Camp, offered only to high school and senior high school students, creates a workshop-like professional environment that not only advances students’ computer skills, but also prepares them for STEM paths to college and future careers. Many Big Data campers have attended previous Argonne camps and programs. In fact, some students signed up for Big Data Camp because they enjoyed the previous camp(s).

“I have already done two camps with Argonne; as soon as I’m old enough for the next camp, I sign up,” said Big Data camper Sofi Rodriguez. “Each coding camp has a different focus, so I like the variety of discovering something new each time. In fact, Big Data Camp has helped me realize that I can combine IT with my other interests like psychology, and pursue a career that supports both interests.

About the ALCF

The Argonne Leadership Computing Facility provides supercomputing capabilities to the scientific and engineering community to advance fundamental discovery and understanding across a wide range of disciplines. Supported by the Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science, the ALCF is one of two DOE advanced computing facilities dedicated to open science.

Source: Nathan Schmidt, ALCF

Sam D. Gomez