Facing the Computers


LDS youth get bit by the programming bug.

Becky Latimer, seated in front of a computer, has a glow about her only partially caused by her bright red shirt and the light from the terminal. The other reason for the glow is the triumphant look on her face as she explains, “Yesterday my friend Eryn and I worked on a program for five hours. It was so difficult that we named it Faith. Today we’re on a roll, so we called this program Hope. And we think things will be going well tomorrow. If so, we’ll call our file Charity.”

Becky and Eryn are participants in a two-week intensive program in computer science at Brigham Young University for outstanding high school students. High school students who have completed their junior year come from throughout the United States and abroad to participate. No previous experience with computers is necessary, but students must be nominated to attend by their teachers, school administrators, and PTA presidents, based on their PSAT (college entrance test) scores. Every participant accepted to the program receives a full scholarship.

In addition to intensive class work and hands-on experience with the computers, extra one-on-one help is available from teaching assistants. The students become literate in the Pascal programming language and handle work that is equivalent to a college class in computer science. Although the computers are available until late at night, social activities are also planned to help everyone have fun and get to know each other.

Many of the participants find that they have an almost instant rapport. Heidi Jensen, Darlene Luker, Curtis Pope, and Todd Smith found they had a lot in common. Darlene said, “The best thing for me is that most of us are LDS, so we can talk about our beliefs.”

Curtis added, “The thing that’s great about this two-week program is that it’s challenging.”

“Yes,” said Heidi, “our attitude is the same. We want to learn.”

Todd talked about the pressure, “Everyone wants to do well.”

Darlene started to laugh. “I felt like kissing my program when I figured it out.”

Chris Bradford is from Amman, Jordan. His father’s job assignment is there. He was excited to be participating. “I’ve been interested in computers for three years. This program is very tough. It’s college level work.” But Chris instigated a little fun. He organized his classmates to arm themselves with paper airplanes to throw at the professor on the last day of class.

Dr. Robert Burton, the professor in charge of the program, had an observation about what the students learn. “If you tackle something tough and succeed, you feel good about yourself. Most of these students don’t have much experience with failure. They are not quitters. We know that they will rise to the occasion, so we set the standard high.”

Becky and Eryn are now good friends. The hard work they’ve done together over a glowing computer terminal has cemented their friendship. And together they have found Faith, Hope, and Charity.

For more information on the Advanced High School Studies Program, write to Robert P. Burton, Brigham Young University, 230 TMCB, Provo, Utah 84602.

[photos] Photography by Brian C. Heckert