RemixCS offers CS training to local high school

RemixCS is introducing high school students to careers in CS.

Computer science community service

Photo: J. Peterson instructs students at KIPP Sunnyside High School
A group of Computer Science students are changing the way high school students are introduced to computing.

RemixCS was created to impact minorities who want to explore careers in CS, said Ashley Gentles (CS ’19) the group’s president.

“When I came to Rice, there weren’t many Black women in CS. It’s kind of hard to come here, struggle and not see anyone I could reach out for help,” she said.

“That’s why I wanted to help high school students and minorities. I want to introduce them to CS so they can recognize it is a lucrative field, it is interesting and it is an option for them,” Gentles said.

Students in the group make weekly trips to KIPP Sunnyside High School in Houston to help students in the school’s computer science club.

“The first time we met with the CS club, they decided they wanted to learn how to code. We are teaching introduction to Python,” Gentles said.

Gabby Jackson (CS ’20) said RemixCS gives minority students an advantage as they choose their future career.

“When I was a senior in high school I took a course similar to this. It taught me that people like me can go to CS and be successful. It is good to create a program to teach students what CS is.” Jackson said.

When Grace Tan (CS ’21) was in high school, she attended CS workshops and programs. She wants to help minority students to have the same experience.

“Growing up in the Bay Area I was exposed to CS. I attended programs that encouraged girls to do CS and I recognize a lot of people don’t have that. I want to give back to the mentors and opportunities I had by teaching other students. I am paying forward,” Tan said.

The road to starting RemixCS was not easy.

“We tried to do it this last year and it fell apart,” Gentles said. “We had high goals we couldn’t achieve. We didn’t know we had to coordinate resources, it took a lot of work. We were really not well equipped,” she said.

The breakthrough happened when RemixCS partnered with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). SHPE, who has an active engineering club at KIPP Sunnyside, connected RemixCS with the school’s math teacher, Jessica Goldman.

“We don’t offer CS courses during the school day, hopefully this can be an outlet for kids who want to explore CS,” Goldman said.

“I really hope it is an exposure to a huge field that right now they have zero experience in. The club helps to show the students the ‘why.’ Sometimes it is really hard to explain why math is applicable, so much of it is applicable in CS. The Rice kids have been awesome, they are so patient with the students,” she said.

Jarriel Hunter, a sophomore at KIPP Sunnyside said he finds the information he is learning valuable.

“I decided to join the club because I wanted to learn how to code. That’s the way the future is going. Coding is the new reading. I just want to understand it,” Hunter said.

The members of RemixCS are Samra Belachew (CS ‘20), Ashley Gentles (CS ‘19), Gina De La Guardia (CS ‘19), Gabby Jackson (CS ‘20), J. Peterson (CS ‘19) and Grace Tan (CS ‘21).

Cintia Listenbee, Marketing and Communications Specialist in Computer Science