Monday, 25 January 2016

Visiting MIT student to Oak House

For the last two and a half weeks we have had the pleasure of the help of a University student from MIT. Deepti Raghavan, from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has been helping us with classes of Physics, technology, Maths and Chemistry. She has also been relating her experiences to our students to help them in their choices for University. This is Deepti telling us about herself:

I am a university student from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, here at Oak House School, for a teaching program for 3 weeks. I am participating in a program called “Global Teaching Labs” where students from MIT get to travel to various countries and teach STEM subjects at schools abroad. I have been lucky enough to be able to participate here in Barcelona, helping the teachers with various math, physics, chemistry, and technology classes at Oak House for students in 4th ESO and older.

I am currently in my 3rd year of university, out of 4, majoring in computer science. The MIT curriculum requires students to take physics, chemistry and math classes to graduate. I was able to draw on my courses and MIT and my high school to help with these classes. I have also had the chance to teach Python Programming with some of Mr. Raig’s technology and math classes. I only started to learn how to program 2 years ago at MIT, so I am really excited to see high school students starting at a younger age!

In particular, I have been working with the students in both the HL IB1 Math class and 4th ESO technology classes on writing some Python code. I have never taught programming before, so part of this experience involved figuring out the best way of explaining some harder concepts in computer science to the students. Luckily, at Oak House, the class sizes are quite small, so I could give a lot of personal attention to the students to help them debug their programs.

I started with some concepts in computer science: what is a computer language, why do we use them, how variables and types work, how functions work. I chose to do the tutorial in Python because Python is very readable compared to other languages, so it would be easier for students to grasp. The students seem to be interested in coding and the applications of computer science in general! They are working on writing functions that apply some of the mathematical concepts they have been learning: to solve for the roots of a quadratic equation, or to approximate sine and cosine using the Maclaurin series. The next task involved writing an encoding and decoding scheme for words based on shifting the alphabet, a problem that applies knowledge of all the data structures the students have learned about.

I have also tried to introduce them to some other aspects of computer science that I have learned over the years. Last January I participated in a web design competition, so I have told them a little about how websites work. In one session we talked about algorithms – and sorting algorithms, in particular. Initially, at the university level, I struggled because I did not have any computer science background. I believe it can help in any industry to have some knowledge of programming/software. I hope they continue to work on their own when I leave!