The World of Computer Science (Featuring Free Resources & Programs)

The+World+of+Computer+Science+%28Featuring+Free+Resources+%26+Programs%29

Udemy

Daphne Han

In a digital age of technological innovations, computer science is becoming an increasingly popular major and programming is a skill that many companies look for in prospective employees. It is incredibly important for people to understand how their technology works in order for them to shape the future of our society.

What is computer science? Well, to put it in simple terms: it’s the study of computers and computational systems. Computer science deals with mainly software, unlike electrical or computer engineers. There are many different areas where computer science can be utilized. A relevant example of how computer science can be utilized is in predicting the outbreak and spread of disease by collecting and analyzing data and then modeling the population to create a simulation of the spread of disease. Computational linguistics is a field where computer systems that deal with the human language are developed. Computational linguists deal with speech recognition (ex: Siri or Alexa), machine translation (ex: translating software such as Google Translate), checking grammar (ex: Grammarly or the recognition systems in place in Microsoft Word or Google Docs), and much more. Computer science can also be combined with neuroscience to investigate how the brain works via mathematical models and analysis. Many people also utilize their computer science skills to create start-ups that meet certain societal needs such as programs for mental health, detection of natural disasters or crime scenes, programs for education, etc. There are an endless amount of ways computer science can be utilized in other fields and that freedom and potential is what makes computer science so popular at the moment.

During quarantine, I’ve gotten the opportunity to brush up on my own coding skills. Although it seems intimidating at first, it’s easy to get the basics of coding down if you consistently practice everyday. I have had problems with this since I’ve been on-and-off with consistent learning and practicing for the past few years so my skills are a bit rusty in some areas. However, in my journey to learning coding, I have found some amazing organizations and resources that can help you get started. I have compiled a list here below:

 

Free Learning Resources

Khan Academy

Khan Academy

Khan Academy is an amazing website that offers a variety of full AP and non-AP courses for free. Khan Academy has a section for computing which contains courses such as AP Computer Science Principles, Hour of Code, computer science, etc. It is a great resource!

Codecademy

Codecademy

Codecademy is a website that offers free tutorials for a variety of computer programming languages such as Java, Python, R, C++, Swift, etc. The site has a free version and a paid version (where you can get unlimited access to practices and extra lessons). The free version is a good place to learn the basics and get started. I personally used Codecademy to learn R last summer.

Code.org

Code.org


Code.org is an amazing online learning resource that is geared towards all grade levels and mostly beginners. There are video lessons, fun practice activities, block and typing programming, and etc. It is a great online resource for beginners!

Coursera

Coursera

Coursera is an online website that is partnered with over hundreds of universities across the country and offers a variety of courses. There are hundreds of computer science courses offered on Coursera that go over various languages and aspects of computer science and are taught by professors from various universities. It is a great resource for people who want a more “classroom-like” feel to learning computer science. However, if you want an official certification that you have completed a course, you will have to pay (price varies depending on course and institution).

edX

edX

Like Coursera, edX is another online site that is partnered with over 140 universities offering thousands of courses, with computer science being among them. You can learn a variety of languages through edX, although not all the courses are free. Similar to Coursera, if you want to get officially certified for completing a free course, you will have to pay.

Codewars

Code Wars

Codewars is my personal favorite website to use. This site is geared mostly towards people who already have some sort of programming experience or knowledge. Codewars is a free site that helps you improve your programming skills through fun challenges (known as “kata”). There are a plethora of coding languages offered on Codewars, and you can add different languages you wish to practice. The challenges (kata) are ranked by difficulty and after completing each challenge, you can see solutions that have worked for previous users (there’s always more than one way to code something and you’ll always find a user with a more efficient or interesting method than yours). Users can even create their own kata to challenge others and receive feedback. This way, you can brush up on your own skills through both completing challenges and making challenges.

 

Summer Programs


First Bytes

Daphne Han


I attended First Bytes last summer (2019) and it was an amazing experience. First Bytes is a free one-week computer science camp at UT Austin geared specifically towards 9th-11th grade girls. The program is suitable for any levels of experience and students are paired into residential groups and project groups (based on experience level), which do not overlap. Students learn C++ during the camp to create a project of a display of lights which are typically synced to music of your choice. This project helps encourage creativity and collaboration. Additionally, the camp aims to dispel myths and empower young women interested in computer science and features visiting female tech companies, listening to female guest speakers on their experiences in the work field and college, and an info session on UT Austin admissions in general. The program is wonderful and I’ve met so many brilliant young women during my week at UT Austin. I highly recommend this to any girls who are interested in computer science.

Code Longhorn

Code Longhorn

Code Longhorn is a program that is exactly like First Bytes, except this program is geared towards underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. It is also offered by the UTCS department and is free and lasts for one week. The projects are the same as the First Bytes projects and consists of similar activities as well as guest speakers and company touring.

Google CSSI

Google CSSI


Google Computer Science Summer Institute is a 3 week introductory course to CS for graduating high school seniors, especially those in historically underrepresented groups in CS. The Google CSSI offers 3 different programs, which you can learn more about in the link above.

I also wanted to mention and acknowledge NCWIT Aspirations in Computing, which has empowered so many young women in the tech field. Through being involved in this program, I have gotten to know so many amazing ladies around my age who are doing amazing things with technology and it has built up an amazing community of support through offering various internship/job opportunities, advice for college or job applications, and also just any types of advice and support in general. If you are a female high school student involved in tech, I highly recommend applying for the NCWIT AiC award.

There is no better time to learn how to code. If you have some time on your hands, consider learning a programming language. No matter how far you get, it’s definitely a valuable skill to have.