With Engineering Professor
Dr. Michael Robinson
Term: Yearlong 2018–19, September 4–May 24
Target Grade Levels: Grades 10–12
Instructor: Dr. Michael Robinson
Schedule: M/W/F 2:00 p.m. EST, 60–75 min.
Our world is full of harmony; from the smallest organisms to orbiting planets, we see the elements of life held in intricate balance. This class brings together science, math, art, and technology to explore the wonderful equilibrium of the universe. Students learn how to write computer programs as tools for inquiry, as well as how to think about and communicate results using numbers and graphics. For this purpose, the free programming language Processing is an excellent starting point; it is user-friendly and allows students to quickly make graphic designs. It is also very similar to the most popular programming languages in use today, so it serves as an excellent foundation for students who may go on to learn other programming languages in the future. Visit processing.org to learn more. The course also uses the textbook Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists.
In addition to enriching students’ appreciation for the order all around us, this class is an excellent opportunity for students to prepare for college. As we consider the order of nature, one thing we will find is that everything changes in a continuous way to become what it is meant to be. Think of an acorn. It is amazing to contemplate how that little seed changes continuously to become a mighty oak! The transition from high school to college can often feel like anything other than a smooth, natural process. Programming Harmony aims to help students make the connection between classical education, and the environments they may find at college. To that end, this course helps students adjust to the pace of an introductory college class in a supportive environment. Students also apply and connect what they have learned in previous classes to produce unexpected and beautiful results.
Course assignments are based around writing computer programs to simulate or analyze the natural and man-made world. Students also develop creative ways to communicate through writing and images. By the end of the year, students will have crafted a substantial portfolio of individual projects that should be a strong asset when applying to colleges or presenting to prospective employers. Students should have the willingness and the ability to devote the time needed outside of class. This course has been designed as an AP-level STEM course (though the course does not follow AP curriculum and no AP credit will be given). As a result, students should plan to commit approximately four (4) hours per week outside of class to coursework. There will also be a summer assignment to help students get a jump-start on programming.
A note from the instructor, Dr. Michael Robinson: I have been involved in teaching college classes for the last seven years, and I know that programming and communication skills will be valuable for many different majors. Even so, the thing that I am most excited about with Programming Harmony is the opportunity to create the class that I always wanted to take—a class that combines the satisfaction of applied knowledge with the fulfillment of a myriad of meaningful connections to our shared world.
Example topics include:
- Physics: Orbiting planets and balanced forces
- Biology: Competition and cooperation in populations
- Statistics: Storytelling with information
- Architecture: Balancing form and function
- Music: Harmony, tone and silence
- Art: Unity in color and design
Placement/Prerequisites: To succeed in Programming Harmony, students will need proficient skills in mathematics including algebra and basic trigonometry. Students who have successfully completed Algebra 2 and Trigonometry would be ideally suited to enroll in this class, but students who are taking Algebra 2 and Trigonometry concurrently with this course will be considered.
Syllabus: Download the 2018–19 course syllabus here.
*Required materials are not included in the purchase of the course.
Michael Robinson is an engineer, teacher, and lover of the arts. As an engineer, he develops new ways for people to interact with computer-controlled machines. He holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Penn State and has researched assistive devices for the blind and algorithms for autonomous vehicles. He has taught at a middle school, and at colleges in the United States and Africa. He also sojourns in the world of art by writing code to create visual works, which he hopes might help us better understand our experiences. He and his wife, Gabrielle, live in State College, Pennsylvania.
Computer: You will need a stable, reliable computer, running with processor with a speed of 1 Ghz or better on one of the following operating systems: Mac OS X with MacOS 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or later; Windows 8, 7, Vista (with SP1 or later), or XP (with SP3 or later). We do not recommending using an iPad or other tablet for joining classes. An inexpensive laptop or netbook would be much better solutions, as they enable you to plug an Ethernet cable directly into your computer. NOTE: While Scholé Academy generally allows use of Chromebooks, due to the specific nature of this course, enrolled students are required to use a Mac or PC.
High-Speed Internet Connection: You will also need access to high-speed Internet, preferably accessible via Ethernet cable right into your computer. Using Wi-Fi may work, but will not guarantee you the optimal use of your bandwidth. The faster your Internet, the better. We recommend using a connection with an download/upload speed of 5/1Mbps or better. You can test your Internet connection here.
Headset: We recommend using a headset rather than a built-in microphone and speakers. Using a headset reduces the level of background noise heard by the entire class. Headset Recommendations: USB | 3.5mm
Zoom: We use a web conferencing software called Zoom for our classes, which enables students and teachers to gather from around the globe face to face in real time. Zoom is free to download and easy to use. To download Zoom:
- Visit zoom.us/download.
- Click to download the first option listed, Zoom Client for Meetings.
- Open and run the installer on your computer.
- In August, students will be provided with instructions and a link for joining their particular class.
from Classical Academic Press