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Essential Programming Skills for Sixth Formers at Magee Campus

13 May 2010

Sixth formers from Thornhill College in Derry have taken advantage of the expertise on their doorstep by taking part in a short course in essential programming skills at the University of Ulster’s Magee campus.  

Thornhill College, which is a specialist school in Mathematics and Physics, runs an Enrichment Programme providing optional short courses for year 13 and 14 pupils. In discussion with past pupils, teachers at Thornhill identified a need for introductory programming skills prior to entering some university courses. They then collaborated with the School of Computing and Intelligent Systems at Magee to develop such a course offered within their Enrichment Programme.  

Annette McIvor, a Maths teacher at Thornhill College says the school’s links with Magee, which could be a platform for a successful career in Computing and Engineering, are very beneficial.  

“Through this pilot programme our students gained valuable insight into Java Programming.  For some it confirmed their aspirations to pursue a third level course in Computer Science. For others it has given them the confidence to pursue a career in Engineering knowing that they will be able to take on any challenges presented in programming modules.  We look forward to building on this collaboration next year.”  

Dr Sonya Coleman from the School of Computing and Intelligent Systems led this pilot project with Thornhill College. It was designed to introduce basic programming concepts to Year 13 and 14 girls and give them a taster of what computing is really like at the University of Ulster. 

“This has been a great opportunity to work closely with a local school and potential students.  The course has introduced basic programming concepts to the girls and given them a feel for what computing involves.  Three of the girls now plan to pursue a computer science degree.” 

The School of Computing and Intelligent Systems provided two PhD students, Julie Wall and Shiela McCartney, as tutors for the course and tablet PCs for the students. The course ran for 16 weeks over two semesters, giving pupils with an overview of Java programming. It was successfully completed by Megan Holmes, Dervla Dorrian, Shannen Smyth, Laura McIvor, Natasha Cavanagh.