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January 28. 2013 9:15PM

Hopkinton High to add a computer science course

CONTOOCOOK - For nearly 15 years, Hopkinton High School students have been participating in engineering courses through Project Lead the Way. Starting next fall, the school will introduce a new course to get kids ready to face the high-tech world.

Unified Arts Department head Will Renauld said Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit program that helps bring engineering to high school students, has made Hopkinton High School a pilot school for its new computer science and software engineering program. The course is designed to give students exposure to data collection and processing and software design, offering them a chance to experience the kind of skills that are in high demand in the computer science and information technology industries.

"Two years ago, we had about 20 students express interest in a computer science and computer programming courses and that's what prompted Will Renauld to start looking into options," said Principal Chris Kelley. "We try to be ahead of the curve as much as we can."

The computer science component of the engineering curriculum, which will teach kids a variety of skills including designing Android applications, will complement the six other classes in the program which include digital electronics, engineering design, and civil engineering and architecture.

Through Project Lead the Way, teacher Kate Backman will be sent to a training program in California to learn how to teach the course. That training will start as soon as school gets out in the summer so that Backman will have time to prepare the course for the fall.

"The teacher training is free," said Renauld, "and Kate will be among 49 educators from across the country who will be field-testing the curriculum."

The skills Backman learns at training will be introduced to the students next school year, but Renauld said the class will be a work in progress that Hopkinton students will be able to help make better.

"Because we're a pilot school, we'll be able to give input into the program as we go along so that Project Lead the Way can fine-tune the course," he said.

nfoster@newstote.com

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