The brains behind the new Comstock Park High School Programming Club are senior Josh Chua, who taught himself to code at age 10, and junior Rachel Lodes, who sees the field as wide open for women.
The friends and fellow techies recently led about 25 students in a session on website development, brainstorming what students want the sites for Programming Club and the school’s competitive gaming club, Esports, to look like. They chatted about adding links to projects, calendars, updates and synopses of the clubs.
Josh and Rachel started the weekly club in September to teach their peers everything from basic coding to website development. Eventually they hope to branch into advanced technologies like robotics.
“We are starting with the basics to get them familiar with the concepts… Slowly we are going to progress into more complicated programming,” Rachel said.
They said they are sharing their passion and encouraging others to think about design and create their own programs because of the many opportunities in the field. The school has three 3D printers, which they plan to use.
“We can make robots, (radio-controlled) cars, games, websites… the possibilities are endless,” Josh said.
Club members said they joined because they want to develop their skills with help from peers. “Programming is important in this day and age,” said Hatcher Pilichowski, a sophomore. “I like having students teaching you something you want to know.”
“I thought it would be a good way to help me out with college classes and I’d like to make a career out of it someday,” said freshman Layne Snider.
Club adviser Dave Staublin, a math teacher, said Josh and Rachel are grooming students to continue the club after they graduate. “They are self-starting, true leaders. They have real goals and are making it happen.”
Students stepping up to teach each other is incredible and provides a path to the future, in a fun and lucrative field, Staublin said. “We need to provide opportunity for our students to get interested.”
An Ever-Evolving Field
Josh, who also started Esports last year with another student, taught himself programming through books and online resources as a 10-year-old. Since then, technology has had seven years of advancement.
“There’s been the rise of the iPhone and apps were becoming popular,” Josh said. “With all the developing technologies, there’s a higher demand for programming jobs.”
Rachel started tinkering with programming two years ago. She has since job shadowed in Spectrum Health’s Information Technology Department and at Open Systems Technologies, a Grand Rapids-based firm. She also participated in a local session of Girls Who Code.
“Everything in the STEM field requires a background in programming,” she said.
Rachel said girls who pursue the field are likely to have their choice of jobs. Several girls regularly attend the club meetings. “Places want to hire women because there are so few in computer programming.”
While the club founders see the potential in their classmates and how they can benefit from their knowledge, Josh said what’s cool about programming is the knowledge is always at your fingertips.
“The thing about programming is you don’t have to memorize it,” he said. “You’re on a computer. You can Google it.”
Josh plans to major in computer engineering or computer science and eventually start his own company. Rachel is interested in architecture and graphic design, and hopes to become an engineer.