Mount Desert Island High School sophomore Keaton Stevens, left, talks with a Harvard student during the CS50 computer science fair about an app she's developing. PHOTO COURTESY OF MEGAN MCOSKER

MDI students head to computer science fair

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A group of Mount Desert Island High School students attended a giant computer science fair held earlier this month at Harvard.

Most of the 26 who attended the fair are students in AP CS50 at MDI, an adaptation of a Harvard class called “Introduction to the intellectual enterprises of computer science and the art of programming.” All students had experience in programming.

At the end of the fall semester, the Harvard CS50 students display their final projects at the CS50 fair.

After MDI’s guidance department secured funding from a career grant, the CS50 fair turned into the nucleus for a two-day field trip that included visits to the New England Aquarium, MIT, Harvard and Microsoft.

MDI computer science teacher Megan McOsker works for the Right Whale Research Project and was eager for students to connect computer science and conservation. They met with scientists, including Dan Pendleton, who works on the conservation of right whales. They also met up with two MDIHS alums and current computer science students at Northeastern and Harvard (Zach Galeaz and Ethan Craigo) as well as Mali Akmanalp, a computer scientist working on economic complexity.

The CS50 fair was a display of student projects and felt more like a nightclub then an educational venue as students celebrated the end of a difficult yet exhilarating course. There were giant rubber ducks (useful for debugging), stress balls (because students need them) and plenty of free popcorn.

MDI senior Jose Chumbe, who already has completed the AP CS50 course, is working independently at MDIHS on an iPhone app. His take-away from the CS50 fair: “Any idea that you have can possibly happen.”

At the end of the trip, the students visited Microsoft, where they talked with software engineers about careers and tried out a mixed-reality device called “Hololens.”

The visit convinced many of the importance of internships. One student noted that technology companies seek employees who are willing to fail and learn from those failures. The “failing-growth” mindset is encouraged.

“I could tell them that, and I do,” said McOsker, “but when they hear it from a professional, it really sinks in.”


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