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What Advice Would You Give To a Teen Who Is Starting to Have an Interest in Computer Science and Automotive?

Hello! As a child I have always had a passion for cars, which is still reigning now, but I have down this newfound love for CS. What advice would you give someone who is willing to a career in these sectors, and is there any resources that I can use to help gain further knowledge about them?

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Wayne’s Answer

Hi Omari. There are many resources to learn about computer science (CS). If you truly have a passion for CS, learn as much as you can now.

Some high schools offer multiple levels of computer science classes with classes past AP Computer Science. On the other hand, 53% of high schools throughout the US don't even offer one computer science course.

No matter what high school you go to, there are things any high school student can do to prepare to study computer science in college. While this upcoming advice may sound stressful or daunting, make sure to not stress too much and enjoy high school! Even if you know you love programming and want to study computer science in college, explore other subjects. Don’t lose sight of non-programming related extracurricular activities.

Here are some tipsfor how to prepare yourself in high school to study computer science.

1. Take all the coding classes your high school offers. This may sound obvious, but if your high school offers computer science courses, try to take as many of those courses as you can! Even if you have a packed class schedule and extracurriculars, a programming class will feel more like fun rather than work if you’re truly passionate about the subject. Prioritizing coding classes in high school demonstrates your love for the subject when applying to colleges. You can also take online coding classes for high schoolers to complement what you learn in school.

2. If your high school offers it, take AP Computer Science A as early as possible. AP Computer Science A is equivalent to a first semester college level intro programming course. Doing well in this class proves to colleges that you are ready for college level computer science. Also, if you do well enough in the exam most colleges will let you skip the first semester intro to computer science class, allowing you to take more advanced classes early on in college. AP Computer Science Principles is also a good class but make sure to prioritize AP Computer Science A because this course focuses more on text based Java programming. Code.org has a few additional ideas on what to take as well.

3. Develop a relationship with your computer science teacher. The teacher who instructs the programming courses is the person at your school who will know the most about computer science. Don’t be shy and ask this teacher to give you challenges, mentor your side project, or recommend ways to learn for you to learn more about programming. This teacher would also be a great person to ask to write a letter of recommendation for your college application.

4. Focus on math classes. Many computer science programs will require you to take math classes past calculus to graduate. Advanced math is useful in advanced computer science fields such as data science and artificial intelligence. To prepare yourself in high school, aim to take the most advanced math classes you can. Classes such as AP Calculus AB/BC and/or AP Statistics will help you prepare for more advanced college math classes. Similar to other AP courses, doing well on the AP exam could allow you to skip these classes once you enter college.

5. Focus on science classes too! Since many computer science programs are grouped together with other engineering programs, many computer science programs will also require science classes to graduate. Focus on taking an AP Physics class, but AP Chemistry or AP Biology would be good options too. AP Physics is most recommended because not all computer science programs will accept chemistry or biology courses for the science requirement but all computer science programs will accept physics for the science requirement.

6. Work on computer science projects outside of class. Just because there’s no class for how to do something doesn’t mean you can’t learn it outside of school. As we’ll discuss later in this article, there are many resources available online to learn programming on your own. Want to create a website? A video game? A mobile app? You can find a tutorial online! Share your project with your school! If you can’t think of a side project, think of a problem at your school and design a website or app that would solve it!

7. Be active in a programming club! Does your school not have a programming club? Then start one! A programming club is a great way to meet other students interested in computer science. You all can explore new projects together and learn from each other. Other ideas similar to a programming club are a club for a more specific type of programming (ex: robotics club or game development club) or a programming club for a specific group of people (ex: Women in Computer Science club, Blacks in Technology)

8. Enter coding competitions. Coding competitions could be a way to take your skills to the next level. Examples of coding competitions for high schoolers include the Imagine Cup, Congressional App Challenge, National Youth Cyber Defence Program, American Computer Science League, USA Computing Olympiad (USACO). There are also several robotics focused competitions but I opted to leave those out since these competitions are not individual and require purchasing hardware / tools.

9. Work as a programmer! A summer job idea that relates to programming is to work as a programmer for a summer. Formal internships for high school students are rare but they do exist, search for what’s in your area. Internships are traditionally meant for college students. Outside of a formal internship, you can offer to build a website or app for a local business. If you live near a university then a research lab could be another good place to find a summer programming job as a high schooler.

Good luck!
Thank you comment icon I appreciate you taking the time to answer this, thank you so much for your advice! Omari
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Nicole’s Answer

Hi Omari S. Thanks for this great question.

In addition to the great guidance you have been provided so far, I offer a suggestion that is two letters EV :D...electric vehicles.

As more and more of these types of vehicles, either fully electric or hybrid, are purchased and driven on our roads, there will be a greater need for auto technicians who are also tech savvy. Building EVs, servicing them, improving their efficiency (think making a longer battery life), these will all be in-demand skills as the demand for EVs continue to grow.

My advice includes 1)Learning as much as you can about the technology of electric vehicles.;2) Seek out locations where you can get hands on experience, maybe a local technical school or in some cases, a high school technical program. 3)Read and learn about where there is growth in EVs meaning where are people buying and using these types of vehicles.

Hope you find this answer helpful and best of luck to you!
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Matt’s Answer

Hi Omari,

This is a great sector to be in with the EV (Electric Vehicle) market growing. However, EVs are not the only option for computer scientists within the Automotive industry. There are many different paths within computer science that can contribute to the production of a car. I would recommend looking into Software Engineering, Machine Learning, and/or Artificial Intelligence.

All modern cars, have an interface system and run on software. Changing vehicle settings, viewing tire pressures, viewing directions on the screen on the dashboard are all possible to software engineers. There are also other mechanisms like displaying warning lights, parking alerts, blind-spot warnings based on sensors are another example of software being used in today's vehicles.
High-performance vehicles (Mercedes, Ferrari, Lamborghini etc.) typically have much more complex software (raising/lowering suspension, enabling certain driving 'modes') that you may find interesting to work on.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning probably have the greatest growth potential within the automotive industry. This is the technology that allows vehicles to drive autonomously.

I would recommend taking a deep dive in how CS plays a role in vehicles and decide from there what interests you. Best of luck to you!
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Brandon’s Answer

Hi Omari,

I am a senior computer engineering major at Ohio Northern University, although Computer Science is its own major I have taken quite a few CS classes thus far. With your combined interest of CS and automotive my best advice to you would be to take time to look into how computer science plays a role into the programming of vehicles today! Electric vehicles are a great start but I would suggest looking deeper into Machine Learning (Deep Learning) and AI as these are major CS categories that are present within cars today. These two fields that you are wanting to get into are full of potential and possibility, best of luck to you!
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Dipti’s Answer

Hi Omari. The great news is that cars, like most other things today, are becoming more and more about the software rather than the hardware. Both your passions are converging very conveniently for you with how the industry is trending!

I would recommend pursuing studies in computer science, but when it comes time for applying for internships or a job, consider the car manufacturers if that remains your passion - they are making incredible investments in software development right now as they focus more and more on electric cars, self-driving, etc. The opportunity is immense!
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Ann’s Answer

An electrical or mechanical engineering degree with a minor in computer science would be a good option. These would prepare you for a career in IT or automotive.
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