Jessica Marie Allen is a Computer Science Principles (CSP) Master Teacher and dance coach at Lennox Math, Science & Technology Academy in Inglewood, California. Jessica earned a degree in computer science and applied mathematics from UC Berkeley.
This year I have had the opportunity to work with some students for the second year as they continued in the PLTW computer science pathway. As they have continued learning, they have started pushing to work on projects that can make a bigger difference. We were lucky to get accepted in a STEM competition called “Girls Build LA,” which challenges girls to design and implement community-based solutions that can effect widespread change. This competition takes teams of up to 10 high school or middle school girls from across Los Angeles County. Our group has chosen to work to try to increase awareness of air quality issues in our area.
The students have chosen to combine their knowledge from their computer science classes with additional learning of more computer science skills. They are building a web app using HTML, CSS, and Python; an Android app using Java; and an Apple app using Swift. They are analyzing LA County Open Data.
The application of computer science skills is just one part of the project, however. The students have been given several amazing opportunities to expand their knowledge and experience. They met an amazing young woman who studies storytelling at USC. They met another young woman, Carmelita Jeter, who followed her dreams to become an Olympic silver medalist. They even get to go to a movie screening of “Hidden Figures,” which follows three women of color who worked as computers for NASA.
Overall, the PLTW Computer Science curriculum has given my students the skills necessary to make a difference in the world around them, and not only has that opened opportunities for them to improve their community, but it has also provided opportunities to continue learning and growing themselves.
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