VWS students demonstrate passion for computer science


Sydney Wuu

Ms. DeRanek explains to Fiona Jiang (‘22) how to visually solve the last component of the most recent AP CSP lab.

If you have ever watched Hidden Figures, you will know the adapted true story of Katherine Coleman, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson — three female coders who helped launch John Glenn into outer space. While this movie is inspiring, the percentage of female representation in computer science career fields has dropped from 35% to 26% between 1990 and 2013. 

Webb, however, is proving an exception to this statistic. Out of the more than 20,000 United States institutions that offer AP courses, Webb received the 2019 College Board AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award for falling within the top 3% for outstanding female representation in AP Computer Science Principles. 

The 2019-2020 school year marks the second year Webb has offered the AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP) course. AP CSP covers the intricacies of Python programming and encourages students to reflect on the broader impact of technology on their community, society, and the world around them. 

Many VWS students have expressed how much they enjoy the multidisciplinary, problem-solving, and creative nature of the AP Computer Science Principles course. 

“Computer science is extremely applicable in the modern context,” said AP CSP student Carol Kang (‘21). “I want to be a freelance writer, and even though the two fields may not seem related, computer science has allowed me to practice creativity with a different part of my brain. The coding process is very challenging and we spend significant amounts of time trying to find solutions to problems, but in the end, it’s worth gaining a sense of fulfillment whenever each problem is complete.”

“I first started coding in seventh grade,” said AP CSP student Rachel Bai (‘22). “I wandered onto Khan Academy by myself to learn JavaScript because I wanted to make games and robots. I really enjoy the practical, hands-on coding part of AP CSP. The labs are challenging, and I ultimately want to explore machine learning and artificial intelligence to become an inventor entrepreneur.”

Webb currently offers advanced coding courses in partnership with Harvey Mudd College beyond AP Computer Science Principles. Following through with Harvey Mudd’s commitment to gender diversity in the sciences, Webb’s goal is to enroll an equal number of VWS and WSC students in this college course program.

“I really liked taking AP CSP at Webb last year and being able to build off of what I learned this past semester with Harvey Mudd’s CS 5,” said Deanna Oei (‘20). “It’s interesting to see how many things can be made with code… from simple calculators to gaming websites. I enjoy computer science because it’s like a puzzle and feels so rewarding to solve it.” 

“My brother who went to Webb took a computer science class at Harvey Mudd,” said AP CSP student Chloe Stewart (‘20). “He always gushed about how much he loved it, so wanting to learn a new skill, I figured AP Computer Science would be a great way to get out of my comfort zone.”

Carissa DeRanek, Webb’s new AP Computer Science Principles teacher, also has a connection to Harvey Mudd. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematical and Computational Biology in 2019.

“At Harvey Mudd, approximately 50% of the computer science majors are women, so I never felt out of place,” said Ms. DeRanek. “I’m glad my students can have a similar learning environment so that when a student is sitting in class, they won’t feel singled out by their gender.” 

With Webb’s course selection season in full swing, AP CSP is available as a math course to all rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors, regardless of previous coding experience. For those on the fence about this course — who knows? Maybe you have the work ethic and potential to become part of the next generation of Hidden Figures’s trio.