Computer Science students ask, “What is ‘better’ code?”

Christopher Goulet
Christopher Goulet

We are in our final week of VAMPY, and the students have learned a lot and had tons of fun. It’s been quite the journey for them, covering a whole college-level class and more in three weeks. But like any other great journey, we started one step at a time. Each student, armed with a laptop and his or her wits, tackled multiple challenges, writing programs that ranged from a display of the text “Hello World!” and drawing circles to multi-threaded chat servers and distributed network algorithms.

Throughout the class, we maintained a central theme: “What is better code?” With that theme in mind, we went through the basics of code by learning the syntax of our selected programming language, Python, while getting familiar with using a computer running the Linux operating system. With the basics out of the way, the students learned to use code to create graphics and to draw on a canvas with their code. Throughout this experience the course emphasized the importance of structuring code and creating flexible code. The students’ skills continuously evolved: When they wanted to draw a box, they progressed from creating lines to creating their own function for drawing boxes. They then could use their tool to create boxes that formed parts of a house. Eventually they could use their house function to draw a neighborhood.

If the students ever got stuck, they were encouraged to ask their peers and learn from one another. They were also encouraged to be creative with their code and were given the freedom to code something that mattered to them. the two final study sessions were allotted to a programming contest that allowed them to demonstrate their newfound skills. Tasked with coding and ranked on creativity, the students reviewed the final projects of their peers to wrap up their VAMPY experience.