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Computer Science Advice for Middle School Students

In this article, Sarah Tadesse, 8th grader at Eastern Middle School, shares her advice on preparing for a career in Computer Science.

What courses to take while you are in middle school?

While in middle school, it is important to take the fundamental computer science classes early on. When in 6th grade, you can take introductory courses to a variety of computer science courses. For example, you can take a course on Coding, Engineering, and Robotic Design. You will also be able to take an Information and Communication Technology in 6th grade. One other class you can take is a Technology and Design class. Once you enter 7th grade, you can take a course called Principles of Information Technology, Cyber Security & Engineering; this course is related to the Coding, Engineering, and Robotic Design course you can take in 6th grade. You will be using most of the skills you learn from that class over to this one (Engineering skills). In 7th grade, you will also be able to take the Invention and Engineering course, which can also relate to Coding, Engineering, and Robotic Design. Once you enter 8th grade, you have many different options as far as your courses. You must complete a high school credit Foundations of Computer Science course, so I recommend getting that out of the way your 8th-grade year to have more freedom in High School. If you decide to take other courses in high school, you can, as well. You can take the Global Technology Systems and Introduction to Engineering Design courses in your 8th-grade year. This course is for Grade 8 students who are enrolled in or have completed Algebra I.

What assignments and skills do you develop in these courses?

If you take the Coding, Engineering, and Robotic Design course, you learn about technological evolution and the positive and negative impacts. You also know to use the Engineering Design Process to design solutions to real-world problems, using technical drawing and computer-aided design software. Suppose you take the Information and Communication Technology course. In that case, you acquire knowledge and skillsets connected to Grade 6 content areas that involve the use of the application, web-based, and multimedia tools. You will apply these programming concepts to the development of games, educational simulations, and robotic products. In the Technology and Design class, you will start to realize the connections between technology and other fields of study while working to understand design attributes and apply the design process through a series of hands-on activities. In the Principles of Information Technology, Cyber Security & Engineering class, you will need to use your engineering thinking skills to address challenges affecting individuals and societies creatively. In the Invention and Engineering course, you will start to understand the cultural, social, economic, environmental, and political impact on technology, society’s role in the development and use of technology, and the influence of technology on history. The Foundations of Computer Science course focuses on the conceptual ideas of computing to understand why tools and languages are used to solve problems. The Global Technology Systems helps you develop the ability to apply learned knowledge and skills to solve problems involving basic medical technologies, agricultural and related biotechnologies, energy, and power technologies, information and communication technologies, and more. Lastly, in the Introduction to Engineering Design course, you develop a design after using computer software to produce, analyze, and evaluate models of projects and solutions.

Extracurriculars to join to continue your STEM career?

If you would like to continue practicing STEM outside of school, you can join many different clubs and extracurriculars. If you are interested in science, you can join a science club at your school. If there is not a science club at your school, you can ask a teacher (science teacher) to sponsor it for you and create your club. If you plan to go into the Computer Science/Technology route, you can join the STEM club at your school. You may create apps in your stem club; you may have an event that you may participate in within your STEM club. If you are interested in Engineering, joining the Coding, Engineering, and Robotic Design may benefit you. There may not be a specific extracurricular dedicated to engineering, but you can take any of the courses mentioned earlier. If you are interested in math, you can join your school’s math club. Joining this club may be an excellent opportunity to take if you aren’t in Algebra 1 by 8th grade (this class doesn’t let you skip algebra 1, but you can gain more knowledge to succeed in that class your next year).

Courses to take in high school to continue STEM?

To continue your Computer Science and Technology studies, you can take the Science Math and Computer Science program (to be eligible for this program, you need to be in Algebra 1 or higher). This program is designed for accelerated instruction in math, science, and computer science for highly motivated and able students. There is also a similar program called Science Math and Computer Science. This program is designed toward accelerated instruction in the areas of math, science, and computer science for highly motivated and able students, as well. In these programs, there are different Engineering programs. Students explore aerospace, mechanical, civil, and electrical engineering to develop a strong foundation for success in university math, science, technology, and engineering programs. There is also a program called, Pathways in Network and Information Technology Program of Study (P-TECH) in certain high schools. This program provides students an in-depth study of network operations and information technology along with an opportunity to earn industry certification, college credit, and an associate degree in applied science from Montgomery College.

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