Now You’re Speaking My Language: Tech Talk with VT’s Phil Hrinko

Getting students acclimated to the technological environment at a young age is important.

If someone were to mention the following phrases – Java, C+, C++, and C Sharp – would you have any idea what they were talking about? Perhaps, but these advanced coding languages seem to escape many of us, regardless of the fact that understanding them is going to define success in our future.

Alarmingly, seventeen states still don’t allow computer science courses to count as a math or science credit towards graduation and 90 percent of US schools do not offer a computer science class. Tech skills are criminally undervalued in our education system. In 2013, only 2 percent of Americans were studying computer science, resulting in a very small portion of our population being proficient in these coding languages today.

As these skills become increasingly important when looking for work, it’s time that our education system modernizes and keeps up with technological growth. By offering courses in hard computer skills and data science in high school, we can get ahead of this trend and equip a rising workforce with the skills necessary for success.

Phil’s take

Being a polytechnic university, Virginia Tech offers many great opportunities for students to further their computer skills.

The Programming Team at Virginia Tech, for example, gives students the space to further their programming and technological skills. The ICPC Programming Team has a number of smaller teams that compete in a Mid Atlantic tournament in the fall and practice twice a week for about 2 hours.

One of the competitors is Phil Hrinko, a sophomore computer science major here at Virginia Tech Phil who wanted to get involved after he took a programming class his freshman year. Hrinko says that he would never have done programming had he not been introduced to it his first year at Virginia Tech.

“I honestly didn’t start programming until about a year ago.” He enjoys programming club for a number of reasons, but was drawn in because he, “got credit for it as a class and it’s really helpful for interview prep.”

Hrinko thinks that basic computer courses should be made mandatory in high school. “I didn’t know a single thing about computer science or programming until college,” said Hrinko, “Personally I think everyone now a days needs to know at least what the basics of programming are. Not writing code, but how programs work, how to solve the problems…people need to know what a program is and what it does.”

Getting students acclimated to the technological environment at a young age is important, especially before they go to college, so that students can have a better idea of what they want to study. Hrinko believes having a mandatory basic computer skills class could be the answer.

“I honestly think there should be a required class in high school…we need a hard computer skills, basic class. Either a required course or something that a student can test out of.”

Educating the Future Generation

The Programming Team at Virginia Tech provides a wide array of resources for its members, including a handbook with a plethora of algorithms, problems and other helpful hints for the competitors. Above all though, Hrinko feels that the greatest benefits that the team offers to its students are their collective minds and experiences.

“Other students that can mentor you and help you out…[professor sponsor] Dr. Back is very smart.”

The Programming Team at Virginia Tech affords students the opportunity to implement their coding and programming skills in a competitive setting. As education and awareness for computers and technology grows, so will the resources for students to learn these basic programming skills. The program is open to all students, but any aspiring student should already have a basic understanding of coding and programming; the group doesn’t teach the basics.

And while the Programming Team does a great job of building and improving students’ computer skills, the preliminary education on the subject is still missing. This is where our education system falters. Until every college freshman has the background to join “Programming Teams” across the country, we haven’t achieved success.


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Header image: Adobe Stock


Posted 03.02.2017 - 03:00 pm EDT