Computer Science: This Generation’s Impressionism?

Check out an article one of my former students wrote for the Dallas Morning News!

, The Dallas Morning News

Betsy Smith for Voices, photographed August 2, 2013. (Evans Caglage/The Dallas Morning News)

“You should drop out of school and become a poet. Don’t worry about paying the bills.” This is something a child will never hear his or her parent say, and for us creative types, it can be frustrating.

I have struggled accepting the fact that although a career in the arts would make me happy, it would not be a practical career choice. I refuse to go to medical school, do not want to be a lawyer, and would make a terrible psychologist.

Two years ago, when selecting the classes I would be taking the next year, yet another science stared me in the face: computer science. Since it is a mandatory class, I had to take it, but I signed up grudgingly. I had every reason to believe I would loathe the class; according to every personality test I had ever taken, I am not the engineering type and despise limitations.

However, after the first day of school it was clear I would love the class. Why? Because computer science is actually art.

Whether you are designing a website, animating a cartoon, creating an app, or coding a robot, you have to use creative problem solving and have an open mind. There is no right answer, but there are few wrong answers. The class was challenging, but it was also fun to see which way I would solve the puzzle.

Our first assignment was to design a website. I could decide the layout, had control over the content, chose pictures and coordinated a warm autumn color scheme for the site. Basically, it was like painting without needing superior motor skills.

The next task was to digitally animate cartoon characters to make a holiday card. After choreographing a two-minute dance routine for a cartoon polar bear and reindeer, I am confident I could score an internship at Pixar.

Our third project was my favorite, probably because it was similar to writing. We could choose any global issue we were passionate about and design an app to spread awareness or help fix the problem. Authors, journalists and poets alike all write about what they are passionate about, hoping they can expose the problem and even make a difference. App designers are just like writers, only they work on a digital platform.

I had a choice to make for every element of the app. I could use links, location trackers, multiple screens and efficient picture buttons, just as writers use words, devices and sentence structures to make their point.

I had limitless opportunities to create something avant-garde in computer science if I chose to look at my assignments with the same perspective I use for art classes.

Everything is technologically driven now. All companies have websites; social media has taken over the world. Flying cars have even been invented (a fact I learned from my computer science class). But technology still needs creative minds to push the envelope and discover new ideas.

Thousands of jobs are created yearly for computer science majors, but there are not enough people out there to fill these jobs that will advance the country. The industry needs innovative artist types who can team up with the engineer types to create new, artistic programs.

Fellow creative students, you could work for Twitter and still have time to paint on the side, but this way you would be using the right side of your brain the whole day.

Impressionism was the new art form of the 1800s, photography was revolutionary in the 20th century, and the 1980s were home to performance art. A century from now, when people look at history books, they will see computer science as the major art movement from this age. Will you be a part of it?

Betsy Smith of Dallas is a junior at Ursuline Academy. To respond to this column, send an email to


December Frisco Gifted Association Game Night

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
from 6:00-8:00 PM
Vandeventer Middle School Cafe
6075 Independence Pkwy, Frisco, TX  75035

THIS MONTH’S TOPIC:  Top Technology Apps for Brilliant Minds
Let’s face it, you aren’t going to keep them away from the smart phones, tablets, game systems and other tech that envelop us today. Don’t fight it! Instead, take proactive steps to get the most cognitively stimulating apps and technology in their hands. In this workshop, we’ll suggest not just apps, but ways your child can use technology in a developmentally positive way to increase his/her productivity and intellectual growth.  Yes, we WILL be discussing Minecraft!

Additionally, you got a preview of Frisco Gifted Association at the last meeting.  Find out more about this exciting new opportunity for our GT and high-achieving students and families.  This is a great way to get involved in an up-and-coming advocacy group at the ground level.  If you want to know more now, LIKE their Facebook Page to get updates!

Finally, after many requests, we are adding the dinner element back into our program with the help of Frisco Gifted Association.  This is as a convenience to parents and students and their busy schedules.   We want to make your attendance at game night as convenient as possible.  Meals will be $4 each and will be pizza, side and drink.

Please let us know when you RSVP how many people plan to eat & if you prefer vegetarian options.
RSVP’s for food should be sent no later than Monday, December 16 at midnight. 

Frequently Asked Questions:
Q.  What kind of games should my child bring?
A.  The best games for game night are ones that require skill and strategy, not just luck alone!
Q.  What if my child is not identified as GT by the district?
A.  If your child would enjoy the challenge of strategy games or you would enjoy the topic in the parent program, we welcome you to attend!
Q.  Can siblings attend even if they are not GT students?
A.  This is for the whole family.  Preschool siblings must be supervised by a parent at all times.
Q.  What if I don’t bring a game or do not have a game that seems like a good fit?
A.  There are always plenty of games and plenty of kids looking for someone to play the game they brought.
Q.  Will there be a meal that we can purchase this month?
A.  YES!  By popular demand, Frisco Gifted Assocation has agreed to handle this for us!
Q.  Is it necessary to purchase a meal in order to attend?
A.  No!  This is offered as a convenience and not a requirement.
Q.  Do parents have to attend the parent program?
A.  No.  You may stay and play games if you wish, but most parents choose to attend the program.

PLEASE RSVP TO with the following information:
1.  Number of students attending game night.
2.  Number of parents attending parent program.
3.  School your child(ren) attend(s).
4.  How many will be eating. (FOOD RSVP’s need to be sent by Monday, December 16 at midnight!)
5.  If you want to volunteer to help with game night or with FGA in general, please let us know when you RSVP!  We are looking for committee members!

Science in Fiction Contest!

The USA Science & Engineering Festival, in association with the Kavli Foundation, has launched the Science in Fiction video contest. Using scenes from popular science fiction movies and TV shows, students in grades 6-12 can create :30-:90 videos that investigate how science fictional scenes could be realized using current and developing technologies. The video contest culminates in a popular awards show, hosted by Bill Nye, as part of the Festival, which returns to Washington, D.C., on April 26-27, 2014. The contest closes on March 21, 2014. For more information please visit the contest website.

8th Grade Count of Monte Cristo Annotation Journals

Here are the specifics for how to approach your annotation book as you read The Count of Monte Cristo.

  • Vocabulary – 100 vocabulary words – write the word, page #, and define it (daily grade)
  • Sensory details – 25 total, 5 for each sense – write down the sensory detail directly from the book (in quotation marks) and include the page number (daily grade)
  • Character Traits/Challenges and Choices – Choose a minimum of 2 characters to track throughout the book; for each character, provide proof of a minimum of 5 traits they have or challenges they face (and how they respond to those challenges).  For each trait/challenge you need to provide a brief description (it can be in your own words, or directly quoted from the book) and the page number on which you found it (daily grade). NOTE: THE MORE TRAITS/CHALLENGES YOU FIND ALONG THE WAY, THE EASIER YOUR BODY BIOGRAPHY WILL BE!
  • Double-Entry Journal – Should be completed as assigned. I’ll give you prompts, and you should answer them immediately.
  • Notes – Copy any notes I assign. (Together with the Double-Entry Journal, this will factor into your participation grade.)

This will be due upon completion of the novel in January; I will let you know the specific date as it gets closer.

Kormania Starts Today!

Tuesday, Dec. 3:  Opening assembly  during advisory.  Find out what it’s all about!

Daily:  trivia question on the daily announcements.  Daily winners get a rock-n-roll prize from Mrs. Friend; weekly winners get an autographed book (see Mrs. Friend for details).  Drop your answers in the container at the library!

Kor-MANIC readers:  Anyone who reads four of the six books (and passes a little quiz on them), will win a copy of Neal Shusterman’s new book, Tesla’s Attic, along with a chance to meet the author and get your book autographed in February.  SIGN UP with Mrs. Friend.

Dec. 4-13: “Born to Rock!”  Decorate a rock like your favorite singing star.  There’s also a “whatever” category.  Pick up rocks at the library starting now!  Rocks due to Ms. Chepey in Room 806 by Friday, 12-13.

Tuesday, Dec. 5:SWAT!  Join a member of the Frisco Police Department Special tactics team as he discusses the work, the equipment, and the danger.  During each lunch period – get your food, then hunt us down in the library.

Thursday, Dec. 12: “Where in the World is Gordon???”  Go coast-to-coast with our geography picture trivia game of famous US locations.  Geography brains rule at lunchtime in the library!  See your Social Studies teacher for details.

Tuesday, Dec. 17:Dress like a Rock Star (but keep it decent!)” Day, with prizes for the best costume.  Judging will happen during lunch.

Friday, Dec. 20: – Touchdown at the movie!  Every team that finishes the coast-to-coast challenge will get to enjoy the movie afternoon—but getting there first is BETTER!  The FIRST team to finish will also score ice cream, popcorn, and Ring Pops.  The second-place team gets popcorn and Ring Pops, and third place gets Ring Pops.   Get reading to score a tasty prize for the whole team!

*Get books from your ILA teacher or from Wester Library!

ISM Presentation Night at Heritage High School

I would like to extend an invitation to you and your children to attend the Independent Study and Mentorship (ISM) Winter Research Showcase on December 11, 2013.

This annual event presents a great opportunity for GT students to gain exposure to the ISM program and the opportunities it can create for them.

Pertinent details are listed below and attached to this invitation.  A brief overview of the program is included for your convenience as well.

Who:              You and your GT students

What:             ISM Winter Research Showcase

When:            Wednesday, December 11, 2013 – (7:00pm to 8:30pm)

Where:           Heritage High School

Winter Showcase – Heritage – Sample Invitation_2013
ISM Program Description