Seven Boulder Preparatory high school students spent four days last week in an intensive class learning how to program computer simulations, building video games and science simulations.They started by creating their own versions of Frogger, moving on to creating science based simulations that included the speed and pattern of a forest fire, the path ants take to find food and how fast a virus will infect a population.
“A lot of people can’t say that I made Frogger and got credit for it,” senior Liz Galarza said. “It wasn’t what I expected. It’s fun.”
Boulder Prep, a charter high school in Gunbarrel, recently was awarded a federal 21rst Century Learning grant to create an after-school program that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math. The five-year grant provides $146,000 a year for the first three years, then a scaled back amount for the next two years.
The year-round school launched its program this summer with the intensive classes. During the school year, the money will pay for after-school classes and field trips.
“It’s exciting,” said Lili Adeli, Boulder Prep’s development director. “We’ve been thinking about an extended hours program for several years. This gave us the funding to do what we wanted to do and more.”
Students at the small, alternative school attend classes for eight weeks at a time, taking two- to three-week breaks between sessions. During those breaks, students can sign up for four-day intensive classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math. Classes generally will be taught by instructors with the University of Colorado’s Science Discovery program.
Plans for future classes include geocaching and nanotechnology.
“These are really specialized classes we wouldn’t otherwise be able to offer,” Adeli said.
When students are in session, Boulder Prep will offer an extra science and technology class two days a week, from 3 to 6 p.m., plus a weekly workshop on topics like cooking, career skills or art. The grant money also will pay for class field trips, such as letting the astronomy class take an overnight camping trip to see stars.
In the computer games class, Science Discovery instructor Fred Gluck helped the students refine their computer simulations, created with educational software called AgentCubes that’s designed to foster interest in computer science.
“It’s very engaging,” Gluck said. “Kids realize they can do this.”
Senior Angeles Ramirez said she took the class both because she needed more science credits and because creating computer games sounded like fun.
She created a predator/prey simulation using eagles and rabbits, changing the number of eagles, how often they eat and how often the rabbits breed to try to create a sustainable population.
“It’s hard to tell them what to do,” she said as she finished her eighth scenario with an out-of-control rabbit population. “If you mess up in one little thing, it changes everything.”