Computer club navigates programming basics

Roshan Kumaraswamy started programming computers in middle school — now he’s teaching the craft to others.

Last month, the 16-year-old Land O’ Lakes High School senior created Coding Club, for tweens and teens aspiring to learn more about computer sciences.

Roshan Kumaraswamy, a 16-year-old senior at Land O’ Lakes High School, first learned computer programming in middle school. He recently created a computer programming club at the Land O’ Lakes Branch Library, called Coding Club. It’s designed for teens and tweens who are interested in learning more about computer sciences. (Kevin Weiss)

The club began meeting on Fridays in July, at the Land O’ Lakes Branch Library.

It accommodates up to 10 people, who program on library-issued Dell laptops.

The club, which now has a wait list, doesn’t require any prior programming experience.

“It’s pretty much adapted to anybody,” Kumaraswamy said. “I have a couple students that are pretty advanced, and then some that don’t even know how to make a file.”

During weekly, two-hour sessions, Kumaraswamy teaches the basics of website programming, from HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), to Swift — each of which serves various functions.

For instance, HTML is the very core structure of a website, while CSS is used to stylistically improve websites. Swift is a general-purpose programming language often used for Apple products.

Club members already have learned to build simple websites and develop two-dimensional arcade video games, like Pong — a popular table tennis sports game.

In subsequent classes, Kumaraswamy plans to introduce the Java programming language, and teach corresponding application concepts. Java serves multiple purposes, from programming Android apps and games, to performing complex mathematical operations.

“There’s not really any limitation as to what you can do with coding,” he said. “I think it’s really cool that you can just take a lot of text words and create something with it, and sort of just experiment around.”

Kumaraswamy began coding in the seventh grade.

Self-taught, he learned through trial-and-error, watching YouTube videos and other online tutorials.

He acknowledged it was a challenge initially, and “took a while” to become comfortable with his coding skills.

His best piece of advice is “learning through practice.”

As a sophomore, Roshan Kumaraswamy developed a mobile learning application, called ‘AP World History Prep Me!’ The learning tool, available on the App Store, helps students study for final exams by visually pairing pictures with practice questions. It was selected as the winner of the 2015 Congressional App Challenge for Florida’s 12th Congressional District.

As he became more experienced, Kumaraswamy built apps for Apple’s App Store, which provides millions of downloadable games and accessories for iPhones, iPads and Macs.

His sophomore year he developed a mobile learning application, called “AP World History Prep Me!”

The learning tool, available in the App Store, helps students study for final exams by visually pairing up pictures with practice questions.

It was selected as the winner of the 2015 Congressional App Challenge for Florida’s 12th Congressional District. That year, the Congressional App Challenge drew more than 1,700 student competitors across the nation; winners were selected from 116 congressional districts.

Though a hobby for now, coding may one day become a profession for Kumaraswamy, who’s in the Land O’ Lakes High School IB (International Baccalaureate) program.

“It’s definitely a possibility of what I want to be doing in the future,” he said. “It’s a big part of technology nowadays, and it’s like a for-sure career path that you can be (successful) in.”

Among his peers, Kumaraswamy said he’s noticed more interest in computer sciences, perhaps due to the proliferation of smart phones and tablets.

“You see a lot of these programs coming up, like Girls in STEM or Girls Who Code, and so there’s obviously a big source of wanting to learn how to code. People value it, I think,” he said.

Besides coding, Kumaraswamy stays busy as a member of his school’s Mu Alpha Theta chapter, National Honor Society and Science Olympiad Club.

His next technological endeavor: tackling the basics of machine learning — the study and construction of algorithms.

“I hope to come up with some sort of project that can take a large amount of data, and use it to help kids with education online,” he said.

The Coding Club will meet again Aug. 4 and Aug. 11, beginning at 2 p.m.

For information on joining the club, call the library at (813) 929-1214.

Published July 26, 2017

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