Technical.ly Philly

May. 21, 2012 11:30 am

Philly high school students graduate Temple MESA computer science class, plan to launch development firm [VIDEO]

If you ever wanted to feel late to the tech game, you could do no better than watch a group of local high school and middle school students demonstrate their own Android applications last Friday night at Temple University’s engineering building. One student, Francisco Castellanos, even used his newly developed programming skills to win over […]

If you ever wanted to feel late to the tech game, you could do no better than watch a group of local high school and middle school students demonstrate their own Android applications last Friday night at Temple University’s engineering building.

One student, Francisco Castellanos, even used his newly developed programming skills to win over a girl, he told the audience.

The students were part of a class of high school and middle school students, predominantly from Carver High School, graduating from a five-month Java/Mobile Apps Design Studio initiated by local, Emmy-award winning technologist Dean Harris, who Technically Philly profiled here, and the Pennsylvania Math Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) program led by Temple professor Dr. Jamie Bracey. MESA is a Temple initiative that runs engineering programs for urban youth.

The students met every Saturday at the Temple Engineering building to learn the fundamentals of computer science and apply that knowledge to building Android applications.

“In high school we have a computer science class and my teacher saw that I was good at programming and he just said, ‘Hey, do you want to take this class?’” Castellanos said. “I said yes and came in on the first Saturday.”

The students’ main teacher Java Presenter and Drupal expert Tariq Hook led the graduation festivities, though mechanical engineer L Dollio Durant and Harris’s son, Askia Harris, also helped teach the students.

“Within five minutes, I realized how engaged these kids were so I was like ‘Alright, this is what I need to do,” Hook said, who took over teaching after missing the first class. “It was exciting.”

In addition to showing off their mobile applications on the front end, the students each explained how they programmed the application, defining key concepts, such as the difference between XML and JavaScript, for the audience to show the knowledge they’d gained.

After the application demos and recognition for the younger students who were still finishing their applications, Hook announced that a group of his students were going to spend the summer trying to launch a development firm called Reach Development. The students may have the opportunity to join Center-City incubator Seed Philly for the summer to launch their business, but the program is still pending approval, Seed Philly cofounder Brad Denenberg told Technically Philly.

The students were then treated to a keynote speech from David Tarver, a successful technologist from Michigan and a former colleague of Harris’s at Bell Laboratories. Tarver discussed the key lessons he learned on the path to starting and eventually exiting a successful company, Telecom Analysis Systems (TAS).

Tarver explains the early day of TAS in the video below:

Check out footage of the students demonstrating their Android apps is available below. Hook says the students not only built their own applications, but helped each other with bugs and other obstacles throughout the process. Next year, the students will be helping to mentor the next class of students, Hook told Technically Philly.

Student Darren demonstrates The Maze Game:

Iyasu Watts demonstrates the Simple Browser:

Francisco Castellanos demonstrates Doctor Love:

Stephen Pettus demonstrates Music Globe:

AbuBakar Mohammed demonstrates Note to God:

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Yael Borofsky was the lead reporter for Technically Philly from from December 2011 to June 2012 before leaving to pursue an urban studies graduate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Previously she was an editor with the Breakthrough Journal in San Francisco. She loves hockey and coffee.

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