The Joys of Coding
The television is an advanced piece of technology that humans take for granted. While it has now been mass produced and commercialized so that the average american now has almost two TV’s per household, its roots are very humble. Philo Farnsworth had wanted to be an inventor since the age of six. By the end of his life he would have over 300 patents but the one that started it all happened when he was 14. He was driving a horse-drawn carriage on his family’s new farm in Idaho. He was plowing the field going up and down in parallel lines when the idea struck him. He envisioned a system that would break an image into horizontal lines and then reassemble those into a picture at the other end and only 10 years later he received a patent for the invention. Kyle Dunn told me this story at the beginning of my Sophomore year in his first year of teaching the school’s new coding class. But you might ask yourself, “What’s one of the school’s science teacher doing teaching coding?”
“Believe it or not I started to learn about coding at a very young age, just like Philo Farnsworth. I also grew up in a Podunk middle-of-nowhere town where there were seven girls in my grade and in four years of high school I dated each and every one of them.”
Even though Dunn was quite the heartthrob back in his day, he was also like Farnsworth in the sense that he worked on the family farm, driving a tractor.
“Whenever I was driving that tractor, all I could think about was how to solve the [coding] error that kept popping up on my computer screen the night before. One time, I got so caught up trying to figure out how to make my snake die when it crashed into itself that I nearly hit ‘the ditch,’ a pothole in our field that had killed three of our tractors.”
After Dunn’s days on the farm, He went to college. Despite his passion for coding, he decided to major in biology. Well, he actually changed his major three times before finally settling on biology. After college, Dunn had a number of odd jobs. His first job out of college was a park ranger position in Glacier National Park.
“Even though it had almost nothing to do with my major or coding, I loved it. I got to stay in this awesome log cabin in the middle of the park with my buddy Jeff. Also, every night before I had to go out and check the traps, Jeff and I would hike over to a cave about a mile from the cabin, just before sundown. Then we would watch literally thousands of vampire bats the size of small dogs fly out of the cave and begin their nightly prowl. The only downside was that we had no Wifi which meant no coding. But, we did have a little radio that was stuck tuned into a station that exclusively played country. I hate country.”
Following Dunn’s years in the forest, he had a few other miscellaneous jobs before finally becoming the newest member of Polson High School’s science department. However, Dunn noticed that there was no computer science class offered at the school. So after a couple years of back and forth with the principal, he was able to turn his passion into a class.
“I think coding is such an amazing skill that everyone should dabble with at least once in their life. Not just because it has a huge market and almost 99% of students who graduate with a degree in computer science find a job within the first year out of college, but because it teaches you how to think. Coding is such an objective skill, and it gives you the tools to analyze problems and solve them. Plus, if a farm boy from Kansas can do it, anyone can.”