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The school year is back in swing and teachers in New Jersey have returned to the classroom with new computer science skills acquired this summer at NJIT’s Ying Wu College of Computing.

The teachers, from three school districts, were students this summer at NJIT in a CS 100 course titled “Python Programming and Introduction to Computer Science.” They attended class side-by-side with NJIT students.

This is the third year NJIT has offered a CS 100 level course to high school teachers free of charge, providing an opportunity to freshen and update their skills during summer break.

The course will help teachers comply with a new N.J. state law requiring that every school in the state offer a computer science course starting this fall. The law also requires that beginning with the 2022-2023 ninth grade class, every student must complete a course in computer science as part of their graduation requirements, according to the State Board of Education.

The following teachers participated in this summer’s session: Samuel Calvijo, Academy for Enrichment and Advancement; Peter Drozd, Academy for Enrichment and Advancement; Kristin Lee, New Milford High School; and Winfield Thomas, Irvington High School.

Drozd, who teaches robotics and engineering and is the coach of the school’s robotics team, plans to introduce Python programming (sometimes called “coding”) into his robotics classes this fall. He has already started using his new knowledge with students in a summer robotics camp and a team robot competition. The programming enabled the team to control the robot, which is actually the body of a Roomba robot vacuum.

“It lets them see that coding isn’t scary, it’s something everyone can do,” he said. “If they enjoy it, they can dig deeper.”

Winfield Thomas was one of several N.J. high school teachers who received free Python programming training this summer at NJIT’s Ying Wu College of Computing.

The Ying Wu program is the brainchild of Dr. James Geller, professor and chair emeritus of the Computer Science Department at NJIT’s Ying Wu College of Computing.

Geller said Drozd’s experience is exactly what he hoped the program would provide. “Our sole objective is that teachers take their knowledge back to their classrooms and share it with their students,” Geller said.  “By reaching these students earlier we can spread the word about the tremendous opportunities and careers in computing and build their excitement. And then, of course, they can continue these studies at NJIT”.

Drozd, who has taught at the Academy for 10 years, said the Python Programming course has allowed him to add deeper content to his robotics courses, giving students the opportunity to learn a valuable skill.

“Within the first hour of using Python, my students created some code that works and have responses from their robot,” Drozd said.