University of Manitoba Computer Science Day – and first ever Computer Science fair champion from Sturgeon Heights

Well this past Friday, May 24th was the 5th annual High School Computer Science day at the University of Manitoba (see the link here), and it was the largest and best organized yet. This year brought 23 of my grade 12, 11, and 10 students. The event itself had over 100 students from Manitoba high schools and their Computer Science teachers. It was the lead professor for the event that pointed out to me that I brought more students this year, than we had in total from all the schools the first year this event occurred. The day consists of university tours of the Computer Science department in the Engineering building, including looking at graduate work in the autonomous agents lab, bioinfomatics, human-computer interaction, and a tour of the universities super-computer center. As well, the students are given a presentation about the Computer Science co-op program and several undergraduate and masters students shared their experiences with the students. After a free lunch and a “swag” bag for the kids, the afternoon consists of two competitions or an opportunity to learn in some workshops. The workshops give the students who are not competing a chance to learn elementary Java programming, or more advanced Java programming in a university computer lab. The competition side had two components. First, a programming competition (the original purpose of the first high school day) where students are given 6 programming problems to solve. The students work in teams of 3 using one computer and try to solve as many problems as possible as fast a possible. Sturgeon Heights has a


Sturgeon Heights – Winner of the 2013 Computer Science Fair

proud tradition of winning all but one of these competitions since the first annual event. This year, however was a “building” year and my teams of mostly grade 11 students represented well but did not win this year and the top prize went to River East Collegiate. However, the other competition this year, was the first annual Computer Science fair. Analogous to a traditional Science fair, the students show off programming projects they have been working on during the school year and are judged by masters students and scored. Sturgeon Heights grade 12 student Kris Rivet proudly won the first annual Computer Science fair with his project and a nice trophy for our school (see picture). Many of my other students also did very well and represented the school very well in the fair. It was a fantastic day for me to bond with my students and share memories of my experiences. As well, during the tours, one of the masters student giving the kids presentations like in the robotics lab was a former graduate of my Computer Science program and a student from the first graduating class of Sturgeon Heights after amalgamation. Thanks also goes out to two undergraduate students from the department who have selflessly volunteered their own time over the last two months to come in during lunch and all afternoon to the school to help out, train, and prepare students for this day. Former student graduate of my Computer Science program Zach Havens first contacted me and through conversation volunteered to come in. In a further conversation I had with him about my desire to bring more girls into Computer Science (see my previous post about this here), he suggested that he had a fellow undergraduate Computer Science student who could come in and act as a mentor for the girls. Third year Computer Science student Vanessa Reimer also selflessly volunteered her time to help out kids in a school she didn’t even previously attend. It was over the weekend that I received a truly touching thank you letter from her, where she outlined that she is now become a mentor on the She++ website (see the link here) to encourage females to enter Computer Science due to her work with my female students. This day was a wonderful day for the students to enjoy and for me to feel truly proud of the highest caliber of Computer Science students I have at my school. Now, back to work Monday and we try to win both competitions next year!

The year of the “Pot Luck” …

So it seems one of the ‘themes’ for this 2012-2013 school year is the “Pot Luck.” It started in September, when out of the blue, one of my grade 11 Computer Science students came up and asked me if he could use my microphone to ask the class a question. Within a few minutes, he had not only proposed the idea of a pot luck, but organized it. A week later, we had a Computer Science pot luck with a class of 95% boys (often very shy and apathetic boys). The kids enjoyed a variety of tasty snacks including homemade samosas (from his grandmother). One of my other classes, my grade 12 I.B. Theory of Knowledge class of 95% girls, heard about this and organized their own pot luck to coincide with Halloween day and our second lesson on ethics. In addition to enjoying tasty snacks (like oranges carved like pumpkins with faces on them and filled with grapes), the kids did ethical dilemma skits (with a Halloween theme) with full stomachs from the pot luck. In addition, a week ago, the Alternative Education program in our school (which is designed for kids who want to recover credits they may not have received  or kids who have troubles operating within a ‘typical’ classroom setting) also organized a pot luck after I mentioned it to the class (I help out in this program every other day). Three different classes: Computer Science, Theory of Knowledge, and Alternative Education all had pot luck meals within their classes. This unique opportunity to create a classroom community, promote sharing and bonding has been a valuable if not unexpected surprise to this year. Below is a short cell video short on Halloween morning during the Theory of Knowledge pot luck:

Welcome back!

Welcome to Mr. Wachs’ new website/blog, and welcome back to the 2012-2013 school year here at Sturgeon Heights Collegiate. If you are a new student or someone I have taught before, please use this site to get at any information you might need for my courses. Let’s have a great year together!