By Margaret King
Cindy Feldman plays guitar in her high school’s jazz band, performs with a dance club and swims competitively. Despite her busy schedule, she is finding time to take two Program Your Future coding courses.
Cindy’s goal? She wants to master the programming skills she needs to create apps inspired by her interest in music, dance and swimming.
When she learned about the free Program Your Future courses, Cindy, who is going into 10th grade at Canyon Crest Academy in Carmel Valley, decided to tackle both iOS and Android programming.
“I’ve always been interested in programming,” she says. “By taking both classes, I can make apps that will work for more people.”
Program Your Future is the result of a partnership between UC San Diego Extension, community members and industry experts. It allows students in grades 9-12 to learn high-demand skills in fields ranging from programming to business management.
Cindy is enrolled in two, year-long programs, each consisting of five classes. The Android Programming classes, held Saturdays at University City Center, cover the development of apps for Android mobile devices. The iOS Programming classes, held Sundays at Valencia Park/Malcolm X Library, teach students how to develop apps for Apple products like the iPhone and Apple Watch.
When she finishes the two series in September, Cindy will receive UC San Diego Extension certificates plus credits. Students in shorter Program Your Future courses get awards of completion.
Cindy, whose dad works in the computer field, took easily to coding as a young child. In middle school, she attended a Java summer camp. “That’s when I really got into it,” she says. “I liked it because I could create things and explore technology.”
She’s eager to learn new programming languages. “I’ve always been interested in helping other people with their computers,” she says. “Learning a new language makes me more able to help others if they have problems.”
In both of the Program Your Future series that Cindy is taking, students start out doing small projects to learn basic skills. They re-create different apps, such as a quiz app or an Instagram or Spotify app. Each course series leads up to a final project where students combine their new skills to create their own apps.
When Cindy was deciding on her final project, her mind turned naturally to music. She has been dancing since she was 4, playing piano since she was 6 and playing guitar since she was 8. She is a guitarist in the Canyon Crest Academy Jazz Band and a member of the school’s Hip Hop Dance Club.
Her final project is still in the planning stages, but she is leaning toward an app to teach guitar using augmented reality (AR). “I’m really interested in AR and also music, so I’m hoping to make an app where your phone shows you where the notes are when you hold your camera up to the instrument,” she says.
Cindy has also been thinking of creating a swimming-related app. She’s a member of the Carmel Valley Recreation Center swim team, and she hopes to join Canyon Crest’s team soon. She has heard coaches say they wish they had an app to keep track of swimmers’ times, so she’s exploring that possibility.
Cindy’s favorite part of Program Your Future is that she is constantly learning new things. Small class sizes mean “the teacher is free to help you do your own thing.”
In spite of her strong coding background, she doesn’t find the classes too easy. She enjoys the challenge of learning new skills like creating a user interface. “There are a lot of ways it can go wrong,” she explains. “If you have one extra space or comma, you can mess up the whole thing.”
With the instructors’ help, she is getting more confident about debugging her code. “The teacher purposely shows us errors so we learn how to debug them,” she says. “Sometimes he gets excited if someone has a new error because that’s the best way to learn.”
Cindy’s goal after high school is to attend UC San Diego, and she is thinking of majoring in computer science. Her career interests include app development and web development.
Going forward, she thinks it’s likely she will keep her focus on music. “I think that there are not many apps for music, so I want to incorporate it into the apps I create,” she says. “Most likely I will incorporate dance as well.”
Cindy “definitely” would recommend Program Your Future to classmates. “I have a lot of friends who aren’t really into programming, but I feel that they could benefit from it,” she says. “My friends are like, ‘I want to use this certain feature on my phone.’ But I tell them, if you took the iOS class, you could make your own app.”