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Cool Computer Science (CS)

This page can also be reached using: bit.ly/CoolCS

[Visiting Your School] [Presentations] [Demos] [Statistics] [Chicago CS Programs] [Teacher Resources] [FAQ]

Computer Science is cool! Take a look at the demos below.

This is part of the Computer Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Please visit this page if you are interested in attending a CS Open House event. Also see news on a special $10K/year scholarship program.

Visiting Your School:

We have an engaging message geared towards encouraging students to consider taking more Computer Science classes in High School, combining puzzles, hands-on activities, videos, and other visual examples.
Please contact us if you would like a visit to your classes.
          Contact: Elena Lathos, Program Coordinator. email: Tel: 312.413.4950
See the summary of topics used in high school presentations.

What Others are Saying: [See even more]

...The presentations have been engaging, exciting, and the students love them. Dr. Reed helps put a human touch to the notion of studying Computer Science at the college level. ...I encourage teachers of all grades to invite Dr. Reed to visit their classes.
         - Jeff Solin      National Board Certified Teacher, Computer Science Department, Northside College Prep

Professor Reed brings a certain charisma to his presentation that keeps the students mesmerized. Many of my students didn't want to leave after the bell rang because they had so many questions for him. His presentation was both dynamic and packed full of useful information. ... His presentation left students with a sense of magical wonder in technology which is exactly what we need to instill in this future generation.
         - Stirling Crow      Von Steuben Metro Science Center

...Several parents came into parent-teacher conferences telling me that their students are now considering pursuing computer science in college.
        - Doug Allee      Oak Park / River Forest High School

... Long after the enthusiasm generated by your visit, a number of students (months later) come in with questions they have from exploring college CS curriculums on line.
         - Sam Polki,      Lane Tech High School, Computer Science Teacher

...Excellent job.  He has a thorough knowledge of the subject and captivated his audience... I wish I was going back to college....
         - Mark Nance      Mt. Edgecumbe High School, Sitka, Alaska

Demos

Link straight to these demos using: bit.ly/CSDemos

Got something cool for this list? email the link to me at: reed sig
Want to see some cool stuff in person? Come to one of our UIC CS Open House events.

PowerPoint Presentations

Fall '08 Open House PowerPoint presentation (video links don't work, however).
            Fall '07 Open House PowerPoint presentation, See the Fall '06 PowerPoint presentation. (Alternatively see the video [98MB avi] corresponding to the Fall'05 version.)
Browse the directory of older versions of PowerPoint presentations.

Topics, Statistics

See some statistics on CS enrollment, employment, and rankings.

What are career options in Computing? ACM addresses this question.

What is the difference between different computer-related majors? See the excellent Computer Curricula 2005 Report on this page (or locally here [pdf]) that describes the difference between Computer Engineering (CE), Computer Science (CS), Information Systems (IS), Information Technology (IT), and Software Engineering (SE).

Diversity has its advantages, as CS Dept. Head Pete Nelson comments in this Chicago Sun Times editorial article.

If you think a good CS education is expensive, consider the cost of failure: Well-known software Failures, Peter Neumann's RISK site, and History of Project Failure Blog.

Chicago-area CS Programs

At UIC we are part of the IMPACTS Alliance*, a consortium of Chicago-area universities supporting CS education. When looking at school options, it is important to find the best fit. For each school consider average ACT, private vs. public, average class size, cost, and program emphasis. Here are some options for you to pursue for a Computer Science degree in the Chicago area, listed in alphabetical order:

DePaul
Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT)
Loyola University Chicago (LUC)
Northwestern University
University of Chicago
University of Illinois Chicago (UIC)

Though not in the immediate Chicago area, many students from the Chicago area also attend:
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)

An alternative pathway is to attend a community college for 1-2 years and then transfer to one of the above programs.

* IMPACTS Alliance is funded in part by the National Science Foundation

Teacher Resources

Programming Environments

Scratch is a a captivating 2-D environment that makes it easy for 7+ year-olds to create 2-D animations and upload their interactive creations to the web.
Alice
is a great free drag-and drop 3D development environment for learning programming, often used with kids 12+ years old
Greenfoot gives more user control for Java programming, used with kids 14+ years old

This page gives pros/cons on the above and gives tutorial links, suggesting moving from Scratch to Alice to Greenfoot.

In the near future (Fall 2010?) use Scratch-like tools to program an Android phone using App Inventor.

Animation

Create frame-by-frame stick figure animations using Stykz (PC/Mac). This is a multi-platform free program similar to Pivot. Download additional figures to use at Droidz.org. [Thanks to Mark Nance, Mt. Edgecumbe HS in Sitka, AK]

Tools

PortableApps.com allows you to load free useful software on your flash drive and take it with you.

See light-Bot for a nice flash game introduction to the need for subprograms

To capture YouTube videos to show as demos to your class, consider using keepvid. To capture screen shots a very nice program is Camtasia's Snagit, offered as a 30-day free trial, and at a discount to educational users.

Looking for programming assignment ideas? See the Nifty Assignments page. See also old programs used at UIC.

In the Chicago area consider joining the Chicago Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) at http://cstachicago.ning.com

SIGCSE is the ACM Special Interest Group for Computer Science Educators. The yearly conference provides a wealth of resources and ideas for CS teachers at both the high school and college level.

MSDN offers subscriptions for High Schools of Microsoft system products, such as Visual Studio and Windows 7, at prices ranging from $299 to $799 per year for a site license.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. Why take Computer Science Classes in High School?

    Two years ago Money magazine chose Software Engineering as the best job in America, considering salary, job growth, stress, flexibility, creativity, and ease of entry.  Computer jobs today are the fastest growing, highest-paid jobs. The average starting salary in Computer Science is $59K.

    Computers today are essential in almost any career.  Nurses who are computer literate have advantages over their co-workers who aren’t; Businesses rely heavily on computers; Teachers use them for instruction.  High School computer courses are an excellent preparation to give you the level of computer knowledge that Universities and top employers will expect.

  2. Yes, but how about the dot-com bust, and out-sourcing to other countries?

    There are more workers in Information Technology (IT)  today than there were at the height of the dot-com era.  While it is true that lower-level programming jobs are being outsourced to other countries, jobs that require higher-order thinking are going unfilled.

  3. How about in the future?  Isn’t Computer Science declining?

    There was a surge in Computer Science in the 80’s, then again in the late 90’s. 
    US Dept. Commerce forecasts between 2006 and 2016 indicate that 2 out of the 4 fastest growing jobs are computer related, with many other computer jobs in the top 25 fastest growing jobs.

  4. How about Project Lead the Way (PLTW)?  How does that compare to Computer Science?

    PLTW is designed to encourage students to consider general engineering and technology, but is not computer specific.  If you are a student who already knows you are interested in CS, taking CS courses in High School can give you a head start, particularly when taking Programming Courses.

  5. What about the idea that all you do in Computer Science is sit in front of a terminal in a office cubicle?

    Thinking that Computer Scientists only sit in front of a computer all day can be compared to thinking that carpenters only hammer nails all day, or biologists only look at test tubes all day.  Computer Science is a vast field that includes:
    1. Applications: Internet technology, Making Computers Smarter (Artificial Intelligence), Organizing large amounts of information using databases, (e.g. Google), Computer Graphics (e.g. Computer Games, iPod interfaces);
    2. Architecture: Building new computer systems and networks
    3. Figuring out how to make computer programs and systems run better (e.g. completing allowing the Humane Genome project to be finished many years early)

    Check out descriptions from the ACM of what computer scientists do. See also http://www.imageofcomputing.com/resources.html

  6. If I'm interested in working in the Gaming industry, do I have to major in Gaming in college?

    Gaming is a very fast-paced and demanding area of Computer Science and requires that you are knowledgeable in math and skilled in programming, using advanced data structures.  Taking advanced math classes and working on your programming skills are good ways to prepare. Gaming companies are more interested in you having a solid foundation as an expert programmer than they are in you having a gaming major. See recommended courses for UIC Electronic Visualization Lab (EVL) students for an idea about this program.

For sources, please visit http://logos.cs.uic.edu/recruit/CSStatistics.htm

 

NSF IconFunding for this material has been provided in part by the National Science Foundation BPC Program (Broadening Participation in Computing), Award CNS-0837480. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recomendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).


Last Update: April 7, 2012