New Computer Science Department Hammers Out the Details

Over the summer, teachers put their heads together to introduce new and exciting classes.


Connor Weisman

This is the first year where students can choose a variety of different types of computer science classes at Friends!

Connor Weisman, Science & Technology Editor

Over the summer, teachers put their heads together to introduce new and exciting classes.

The 2022-23 school year has brought many changes to the Friends upper school such as a new head of school, high school principal, and many new sports. However, there is one change that will affect the school forever, which is the innovation of the new computer science department.

Prior to the 2022-23 school year, most classes in computer science were generally math based, and only a few were art based, and because of this many people ruled computer science out of classes that they were willing to take. But three people wanted to change that, and make computer science more open to all types of interests and people of Friends.

“We advocate for a computer science curriculum that is for everyone. [One] that every student no matter what their interests are can find a way that computer science can help them do that in a more meaningful way”, said Joel Hammer who teaches Advanced Computer Science I and II, Data and code, Physical Computing, and Senior Design. All of which are new classes this year. In the years prior to Mr. Hammer’s arrival at Friends, this infamous computer science department only had one class, and that was Intro to Java. 

“It was very Math focused. Most of the kids that took that class were students already successful in math classes” said Heather Romney, an art teacher at friends. So if you weren’t big on math this class wasn’t very appealing. 

There were, however, a couple of art-based programming classes that weren’t considered part of the computer science department, but were in essence computer science classes. All of these classes were taught by Ms. Romney. These classes were very popular, even though there wasn’t very big popularity in the Java course. So in the 2021-22 school year and the summer of 2022  Hammer, Romney, and Jeniffer Robinson, who is the director of Academic technologies and libraries at Friends, put their heads together and redesigned the whole computer science department. 

Throughout the process of redesigning the whole department, they went to Christine Koniezhny, and former high school principal Steve McManus and put forward their ideas.

 “We propose the current sequence so there are four entry points where students can take web design, creative coding, Data, and Code, or physical computing. And all of those four courses will qualify you to go on to take ACS I (Advanced Computer Science I)”, stated Ms. Robinson. It is important to note that if you complete ACSI you are able to take ACSII the following year. When you reach your senior year you are eligible to take senior design which can be taken if you have completed at least one computer science class. 

This new computer science department is more important than ever because of the growing popularity and importance of computer science in the world right now. 

So this brings up the question of should all students be required to take computer science. 

“I certainly have my opinions,” said Hammer, “I would want to hear what all the other department chairs have to say. I could think of a lot of benefits to doing that. It’s hard to get by without knowing something about a computer” Hammer said after a chuckle. He did note that he wouldn’t want someone who would rather take an art class to have that opportunity to do that than be replaced by a mandatory computer science course. 

“I have mixed feelings about this, I think coding is a really valuable skill, and I think all students should actually have experience with computational thinking,” said Robinson. “Do I think all students should follow a computer science track? Not necessarily”. She added. Romney also generally agreed with both Hammer and Robinson but she did note that in all public high schools in Maryland taking at least one computer science class is mandatory. 

“I think private school should catch up to that, but at the same time, I wouldn’t want to make it a required course at Friends. Instead, I would like to offer a bunch of different options. I wouldn’t like the required course”.

The department chairs are not likely to make computer science a required course any time soon, but if you have been on the edge of taking a class it is strongly recommended because you never know what new interest you will find, and learning how to use and write code is an important skill in the world we live in now.