Stuyvesant Hosts CyberStuy 2019

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Stuyvesant’s computer science (CS) department hosted their third annual CyberStuy on Saturday, January 19. Middle school students from around the city interested in CS were invited to learn about computer science at Stuyvesant and about Stuyvesant in general.

The day included interactive workshops like Computer Vision in Robotics, Introduction to Virtual Reality, and Web Design, followed by a Q&A panel with current students and alumni. In between workshops, Stuyvesant students provided demonstrations of their projects from classes like AP CS. Students were able to interact with these projects, which included games and simulations. One game shown was Plants vs. Zombies, which was made as a final project for AP CS.

CyberStuy is run and organized by students. The workshops and demonstrations are presented by students, and the event is led by student coordinators and seniors Amit Narang and Winnie Lin. “I am here really to support the students, and the event succeeds because the organizing team and the students who are running the workshops and the students doing project demos put a lot of time and effort into it,” CyberStuy faculty advisor JonAlf Dyrland Weaver said.

CyberStuy currently aims to educate and introduce middle school students to computer science. However, this was not always the case. Weaver explained that the original idea was, “a CSplash-type event where there were workshops that were all student-led and other students could come in and learn various things,” he said.

This vision changed though, mostly due to influence from Ms. Yulia Genkina, who no longer teaches at Stuyvesant. “She got involved with the initial planning and morphed the idea into this concept where our Stuyvesant students, who are advanced from a computer science standpoint, more than the rest of the students in the city, would be able to share what they’ve learned and their skills with the younger students,” Weaver said.

Students who are currently taking or have taken AP CS demonstrated their knowledge during workshops. Junior Yaru Luo taught Introduction to HTML and CSS, two programming languages used to create websites. “Teaching an entire workshop at CyberStuy definitely helped develop my skills as a CS student. As any of the Stuy[vesant] teachers will tell you, if you’re able to articulate what your code is doing and explain it to other people, that shows you know you’ve understood it yourself,” Luo said.

Likewise, middle schoolers were also given the opportunity to develop their computer science skills. One eighth grader at the event, Oliver, said it was “really cool.” “I now know how to make a website in HTML,” Oliver said.

Senior Joe Suzuki gave a workshop on the uses of computer vision in robotics, a field that involves how computers process and interpret information. His workshop caught the attention of both students and parents. “I could personally see the excitement in the students’ eyes as they saw how robots could move around the field to find blue wiffle balls through the use of computer vision. I was even contacted by a parent to see if I could mentor their children to [teach them] how to code,” Suzuki said.

Junior George Zhou, a CyberStuy volunteer, also noted that many parents, as well as students of all ages, got involved. “Even though the program was mainly for middle schoolers, I saw some elementary schoolers and even some adults trying to get into CS,” Zhou said.

Luo said, “I was teaching students who were learning how to code for the first time plus their parents who are an entire generation apart. It just goes to show […] that you can learn CS or how to code at any age, at any time, as long as you have an interest in it. It’s just important in this time period because we are getting more technological.”

The students involved with CyberStuy see the benefits of the event, as they wish the program existed when they were in middle school. “I did FLL [First Lego League] but I didn’t get any exposure to computer science until high school, and I feel like if I had gone to an event like this, I would have gone on my own to pursue it and learn something about it,” Lin said.

CyberStuy has also become a way to raise awareness about specialized schools in general and about Stuyvesant in particular. “It’s something many Stuyvesant students take for granted, that everybody knows about the specialized high schools, and that’s not the case,” Weaver said.

The organizers of CyberStuy have worked to attract students from middle schools that are underrepresented at Stuyvesant, so those students have the opportunity to learn about the Stuyvesant community. “A lot of students are coming from these schools where they don’t send a lot of kids to Stuy[vesant], so being able to show them that Stuy[vesant] has all these cool programs […] will hopefully help inspire them to actually think of it as an option,” Narang said.