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OHS student's computer program put to good use

OHS junior Tyler Scott explains his program to the Oxford Board of Education. Photo by Trevor Keiser. (click for larger version)
June 26, 2013 - It's not everyday that a high school student gets to take their classroom learning and turn it into a real-life job opportunity prior to college.

But Oxford High School junior Tyler Scott is doing just that.

When Career and Technical Education Teacher Karen Cartmill was approached by high school administration to create a computer program that would efficiently track the quality control, time spent and money spent by the high school's maintenance crew, Cartmill recommended Scott for the job.

"Tyler is just a great student. He really excels and he is the type of student that is ready for something that is real life and this is a real life application," Cartmill said. "For someone who wants to do this as his career I can't imagine a better time than starting to get that introduction and experience (now) before going to college."

"Basically what the program does is it allows you to keep and track maintenance requests by staff in the building and keeps it organized in a way that maintenance can see what they need to work on and what's most important," Scott said. "Also, it allows thethe administration to kind of look over how the program is running and see how everything is going and also see the statistics on where the most maintenance problems are, what's costing the most money and things like that, as well as making sure there (aren't) any bugs in the program"

Cartmill, who's background is in computer programming and information systems, said the magnitude of the program that Scott created is "industry level."

"I used to do that type of programming," she said. "To be at that magnitude now as a junior in high school is really significant."

Scott, who will be entering his senior year in the fall, said he wasn't introduced to computer programming until this past school year when his dad was helping him choose courses to take as a junior. He recommended the class to his son.

"I actually didn't want to do it. I thought it would be absolutely terrible. I know I am in (that) stage of being a teenager where you kind of want to do everything opposite of what your parents tell you to do, but he kind of convinced me and I said, "All right. I'll take it for a semester and see how much I like it,'" he said. "So I did, and it turned out to be one of the best classes I've ever taken."

Not only did he discover that it was fun, but it also gave him and his dad, who is a computer database administrator at Mott Community College, something else to talk about and do together as father and son.

"Before I took this class I had no idea what my dad did," Scott said. "I knew his title 'database administrator,' but I had no idea what a database was or what he administered. I knew it was something with computers and I had no interest at that time with computers. I wanted to be a mechanical engineer, something with cars and stuff."

For the first two or three months, Scott said he did what all the other students in his class were doing, but after taking his programming book home and looking through it, he decided to challenge himself with harder programs. After doing two or three harder programs, Cartwill gave Scott the freedom to create what he wanted and explore the world of programming.

"I finished the whole book and got the next book," he said. "It is a more advanced book and I did half the programs in that."

"He just had something in him right up front. Even within the first few months, I could tell already that this is a programmer and this someone who we have to move along at a different pace than the rest of the class," Cartmill added. "He just has that engineering, mathematical and logical mind."

She also said letting students inquire and learn is a part of the International Baccalaureate philosophy.

"He really had the wings and I just let him fly with them."

While he had only been doing programming for a few months, after seeing Scott's "raw talent," Cartmill decided to sign him up for the Business Professionals of America (BPA) Club where Scott placed fifth in the region, which qualified him for the state competition where he ended up placing 10th.

"For him to come in and compete after three and half months of programming and do as well as he did is really great," she said. "I just look forward to going back to the competition (next year) having now spent an extended period of time in programming and seeing how well he's going to do."

Scott said his placements in the BPA competitions were an eye-opener for him.

"That kind of hit me that 'Wow, I might be pretty good at programming if I do it a lot,'" he said.

Creating the maintenance program has also given Scott the opportunity to mentor younger students. Scott, along with other students in his programming class, designed and created educational games. After compiling all the games into one folder, they decided to put them to good use and share them with some elementary and middle school classes. Scott spoke to three classes at Oxford Elementary and a couple classes at Oxford Middle School.

"I talked to kids about programming and getting into the technical part when they get into high school and middle school," he said. "I showed them a little bit of coding and they all liked it and got really excited and thought it was fun. They learned stuff and I got to hangout with kids all day. It was a pretty good idea."

As another way of mentoring, Scott has decided this next school year to teach younger students how to run LightSwitch, the web based program he used to create the maintenance program on.

"My idea at first was to teach Mrs. Cartmill how to use LightSwitch because she's going to be there a while because she's a teacher. Then I decided what if in Programming Two, I taught the kids who were years below me about LightSwitch and how to maintain the program and we did that for a semester," he said. "That way it could keep being passed down almost like a ladder (from student to student)."

Scott is part of the high school's varsity baseball and basketball teams, National Honors Society and "Link Crew," a transition program that welcomes freshman and makes them feel comfortable throughout their first year of high school. In the summer, he enjoys downhill mountain biking and in the winter, downhill skiing.

"I kind of keep my recreational activities up," he said.

Along with programming, Scott has taken engineering courses at Lawrence Technical University. He plans to go to either Purdue University or Northwestern University.

"Both have really good computer engineering programs," he said.

"I want to go into computer engineering," he said. "I think that would be a really good degree to get and be really (helpful when) looking for jobs (after) college."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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