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In a Summer Derailed, Students Push Back With Coding


When COVID-19 forced an early end to her study abroad, Jiin Jeong ’21 set aside her disappointment and began to ponder how readily available technology could be used to create opportunities for other students thrust into remote learning and social distancing. 

Jeong, a computer science major and co-president of the Hamilton Coding Team, solicited the help of a few peers. The result is three computer science-related summer mini courses that cover coding, ethics, and tutoring. The courses, now in full swing, drew roughly 32 students, mostly from Hamilton. Jeong and a team of student volunteers run the entire operation: curricula, scheduling, assignments, and leading the remote sessions.

Summer of Code is a 12-week, project-based course for students with limited computer science experience led by Jeong and Coding Team Co-president Belal Shaheen ’23. They lined up entrepreneurs as guest speakers and devised creative assignments like having students develop Hamilton-themed games. Things went well.

“All of the projects were amazing. I didn't expect this level of commitment from them,” says Shaheen, who is considering computer science, math, and digital arts as possible majors or minors.

Claire Harpel ’23, an art major who has taken an intro computer science course, created a maze game with a Hamilton color scheme and, for another project, built a wilderness first aid website. She's an orientation leader and wilderness first aide would have been part of orientation training if COVID-19 had not intervened. 

“I’ve definitely learned a lot of the different types of coding that I didn’t really know about before, and I’ve definitely had to do a lot of work, but it’s also been really fun because its good to have a challenge, especially just being home for so long,” she says.

Students in ethiCS take turns leading discussions focusing on the ethics of emerging technologies, with support from rising seniors Séamus Wiseman, a philosophy and computer science major, and Joel Harper, a government major. Contact tracing, algorithm bias, and technology and democracy are among the topics up for discussion. Students are assigned readings and lectures to prepare. It’s going so well the plan is to continue it during the fall semester.

CS volunteers matches student participants with young community residents from groups underrepresented in the field. Tutors develop and deliver lessons on Python and HTML/CSS, meeting weekly with the younger students. Jeong and Jack Scacco ’21 jointly oversee the tutoring.

It all keeps Jeong busy, plus she has an internship that wasn’t derailed — working in coding at Goldman Sachs. She hadn’t anticipated she’d have such an exciting summer. She’s working with everything she loves: an interdisciplinary mix of the practical application of computer science, diversity in compter science, and issues of technology and society. This summer will provide her with good memories despite the pandemic, she says.

“It’s a good memory because I feel like that's what Hamilton is about,” Jeong explains. “It's not a technical school that teaches you to be the best programmer, but it's a school that teaches you how to think creatively and how to leverage the different things that you learn — leadership, working with people,  communication — to actually make change.”

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