This article originally appeared in the fall 2015 Harker Quarterly.
More than a decade has passed since Abhinav Mathur MS ’05 was a middle school student taking computer science with instructor Mike Schmidt. Over the summer, Mathur returned to Harker as a guest lecturer for a new course, called Beginning Python, that Schmidt was teaching for the Summer Institute (SI).
Being back in Schmidt’s classroom, filled with 17 middle school students, Mathur experienced an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. Now a sought after coding expert, Mathur said he was excited to teach a class at Harker and give back to the school that provided him with so much.
Schmidt, Harker’s longtime middle school computer science teacher and current department chair, explained that Mathur had designed the instructional software program he was using in the SI coding class.
Python is a widely used general-purpose, high-level programming language. Mathur created an online learning environment, called Pythonroom.com, focused on Python. He and another young entrepreneur, Keshav Saharia, founded a company called HulaLoop, which provides Web-based educational platforms for various programming systems, of which Pythonroom is currently their main focus.
“I had been using their product for my newly created Python programming course to teach middle schoolers the world of text-based programming. The kids were crazy about it and absorbed all the lessons like sponges!” recalled Schmidt.
Pythonroom provides a solid foundation for Python programming by allowing students to move forward at their own pace, Schmidt added.
“I think Pythonroom is great for beginners and it is really fun,” agreed Angela Cai, a grade 7 Harker student who attended the class. “Abhi was a great [guest] teacher, and he gave great advice on finding easier ways to do certain problems,” added Stephen Yang, a grade 8 student at Miller Middle School.
Held on the upper school campus from June 15-Aug. 7, SI was open to both Harker students and grade 6-12 students from area schools. SI enabled participants, like those enrolled in the Python class, to get a jump start on the coming school year, as well as enrich their learning on topics of interest.