HHS offers first AP Computer Science classes


Luke McLendon

Major teaching a class of AP Computer Science Principles students

David Young, Campus Editor

Homewood High School is welcoming two new AP courses this year: AP Computer Science Principles and AP Computer Science A.

Students at HHS are now able to take either of these classes as a math or science credit. As technology advances and the presence of computers grows, many school systems like Homewood have decided to bolster their computer science programs. Whether it be the fundamentals of binary code or the complexities of Python, these new courses offer a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in a subject that will only grow in its importance.

This new expansion of the computer science program at Homewood would not have been possible without one of Homewood’s newest teachers, Fred Major. Major has taught for 16 years and previously taught at Mountain Brook High School until this year. 

Major started the AP Computer Science program at Mountain Brook after the National Institute of Science issued a grant to a professor of computer science at Alabama, Dr. Jeff Gray. Gray used the money to start various computer science programs across the state, one of those being in Mountain Brook. Major piloted the program until it became an official AP course in 2016.

Students are already expressing their enthusiasm about the course. Considering this generation of high schoolers has been raised on computers, the new program has given students a chance to grow in their knowledge about a subject so important in their lives. 

Major giving a lesson on coding fundamentals (photo by Luke McLendon)

Prem Patel, a student enrolled in AP Computer Science A, said, “Technology is moving, and we are going to need coding to create more things and stay technologically advanced.”

Major also expressed his thoughts on the relevance of computer science today.

“[Computer science] is multifaceted,” he said. “All your interactions are with some type of algorithm… when you get in your car, whether or not you know it, there’s a computer chip running everything. It also helps logical thinking skills. If you can read through someone else’s computer program and then write yours, there’s lots of logic going on.”

Coding is just a complex sequence of logical propositions; the AP Computer Sciences can aid students in not just computer science, but also critical thinking and argumentation. 

The AP Computer Science courses have an exceptionally accessible curriculum. Where many AP science and math courses, like AP Calculus or AP Chemistry, require some prerequisite class, AP Computer Science Principles does not. It is an entry-level course, meaning no prerequisite knowledge of computer science is required. AP Computer Science A offers a more advanced syllabus, involving more challenging material. 

Major demonstrating how to write a command for a program (photo by Luke McLendon)

Thomas Reed, a senior in Major’s AP Computer Science Principles class, said,  “I think it’s really interesting. It’s a field I don’t really know a lot about so I’m learning a lot of new things and [Mr. Major] makes it really fun.”

The AP Computer Science Principles exam is particularly distinctive, consisting of a class project in addition to the typical multiple choice section. At the end of the school year, students spend multiple weeks developing their own project using their skills acquired over the school year. This gives students the opportunity to meaningfully express their creativity in an environment that often limits it.

Students who want to take AP Computer Science Principles or AP Computer Science can take them as core math, core science or general elective.