"And it gets you no closer to the real business of programming," says Mark Galassi, an astrophysicist at Los Alamos National Lab. This is part of why he runs a 10-hour, one-weekend crash course at the Santa Fe Public Library called Serious Computer Programming for Youth.
The class is intended for elementary, middle and high school students—even those as young as 8 years old—and is free with the caveat that participants have to bring in an old computer that can be wiped clean. Loaners are available, but students are encouraged to ask their grandpa or knock on their neighbors’ doors, the idea being that out-of-use computers are abundant.
“Oh yeah, I’ve got one at home,” says Adam Reilly, a reference librarian and camp coordinator. “They’re slow, they’re neglected—but for their purposes, for coding, it doesn’t matter.”
"It's a sadly fascinating phenomenon how, starting in seventh grade and ending at the end of grad school, the number of girls in the mathematical disciplines—math, computer science, electrical engineering, physics—goes from 50 percent to pretty much zero," he tells SFR. "It's terrible."
After the initial course, Galassi offers another on more advanced scientific topics every other Thursday. These, he says, tend to be majority-girl. And even if students don't wind up studying or working in the sciences, Galassi says, "the study of science, math and computer science gives you a pair of glasses to look at everything else that you do that's amazing. Everything is so crisp."
Registration is open through Galassi at firstname.lastname@example.org until spaces are filled.