Derek Pezo ’19 & Zachary Cronin ’19
From March 22nd to the 26th, Passaic Valley’s STEM classes were exposed to Python, a commonly used professional programming language. Dr. Martin Carroll, of Nokia Bell Labs, served as a guest professor and educated students on STEM research along with additional exposure to the field of technology.
Once every summer, the Bell Labs hosts an event for high schools across the state of New Jersey to visit the research that they conduct. During this, each school was assigned a researcher to guide them, and Dr. Carroll was in charge of Passaic Valley. After the presentations, Carroll asked STEM teachers Mr. William Phillian and Mr. Michael Carlucci if they would allow him to teach their students about Python Programming, to which they accepted graciously.
“Python is a very widely used programming language.” stated Dr. Carroll, “It is used quite a lot in the industry, and it is also an excellent language for learning how to program.” Carroll designed the entirety of the class he taught.
Students experienced a self-guided course that besides programming, consisted of other topics like math and history. The reason Carroll made this course student-led was that he wanted kids to learn how to complete a variety of tasks on their own. “Of course, during the course I interact with and help the students as they get stuck and need assistance,” he added.
This is not the first time Dr. Carroll has taught a course like this at a high school. A year ago, he taught almost the same material at a different school, so he brought it back to Passaic Valley with some minor changes. “Overall, I think I came out with some new knowledge, it was a very different style of learning that I adjusted to and eventually came to enjoy,” said Thien Dinh-Do ’19.
On the last day of the class, Carroll made the most of his final session. He decided to completely take apart several types of computers, including a desktop and a Chromebook. Once the numerous parts were all laid out, students were able to see all of the intricate details of a computer and the basic fundamental design. Since all computers are built using transistors, it simply shows that all computers are built in the same fashion.
“As I said to the students, computers are pretty amazing,” explained Dr. Carroll. “The fact that humans have figured out how to make computers do things like compute pi is quite amazing.”
As Dr. Carroll concluded his time in Passaic Valley, he reflected on the impact he made on students in his short week here. One of his main goals was to motivate teenagers to pursue computer science in the future and open their eyes to different branches of engineering. “I think I conveyed some sense of what professional computer scientists actually do and how they think,” said Dr. Carroll. “I hope that the course helped some students learn how to think more clearly, precisely, and logically.”