C# Electronically Challenging Our 14 Year Old Students
Want a head start in the Start-Up Nation? If so, Boys Town Jerusalem’s ninth grade is the place to be. Thanks to an innovative extracurricular program, 14-year-old BTJ students are now among the youngest in Israel being taught the advanced C# (“C-Sharp”) programming language. After only several months, these students are off and running to put their knowledge to use. The first assignment: programming and building a fleet of remote-controlled vehicles operated at the touch of a cell phone keypad.
“C# is a modern, versatile programming language used to operate the latest microcontrollers. These are the tiny computer “brains” on a single integrated circuit imbedded to control everything from automobile engines to medical instruments, household appliances and toys,” explains Barak Cohen, the electrical engineer who created the pioneering Boys Town Jerusalem program. “Once students are introduced to the basics of C# programming, they can go straight to the (literally) nuts-and-bolts task of assembling electronics components and sensors to make a remote-controlled car, in this case. Then comes the greatest moment of all, when these kids take their phones and dial up a command they have programmed from scratch to instruct the car to back up, speed ahead, flash its blinkers, and more.”
The C# programming language is generally taught at the college level, although BTJ’s “Cisco” Computer Studies Department is among the handful of Israeli high schools which have introduced the study to advanced classes, Barak notes. Yet at Barak’s initiative, Boys Town Jerusalem is one of the first five schools to teach C# to ninth graders. To instruct the students, Barak handpicked Avishai Mizrachi, a young, experienced teacher; whose own enthusiasm for his work is readily contagious.
Patiently guiding the students to separate the wires to imbed a driver circuit in the base of their RC (remote controlled) cars, Avishai supervised his crew’s efforts to tackle the intricate task with screwdrivers and wire-clippers. “It’s great that we’re learning to program, build and operate a real device,” says student Yisrael Smadja as he carefully checked the program he created before connecting a distance sensor. “It’s really a challenge!”
“We’re giving these students a big head start in electronics,” Avishai notes. “C# is a fundamental program in the sophisticated world of microcontrollers. But what’s exciting is that this BTJ course involves both software and hardware, implementing programming skills within a tangible machine that you build. The goal, of course, is to get the students interested in continuing their studies. We’re hoping to open one small window onto the endless highway of discovery that lies ahead for these youngsters.”