This month’s IMACS blog post is by guest author and IMACS alumnus, Steve Krouse. Steve recently sent us the following letter via email and kindly agreed to let us share it with our blog readers. If you would like to learn more about the IMACS Computer Science program that was the turning point in Steve’s academic career, click here.
I’ve been meaning to write this letter for a while now. I’d appreciate it if you could forward it on to Ken [Matheis, Senior IMACS Instructor], who especially helped me become the student I am today.
As you may remember, I was a student at Pine Crest School when I started taking computer enrichment classes at IMACS. I was a pretty awful student in 6th grade. Seventh grade was even worse for me. I got a C in science, B’s in math and blamed my teachers for my academic shortcomings. Around 8th grade I started Scheme, and that’s when things started to click for me. It is often said that to really learn something, you need to teach it. I would argue that computer science allows you to learn things incredibly well because you aren’t only teaching something, you are teaching something to a computer. And when “teaching” computers, you have to be specific, organized and precise.
Computer science changed the way I thought about everything. It helped me organize my thoughts, improved my grades in every subject in school and made me a happier person. IMACS not only gave me a better organized thought process, but it gave me the confidence to take on more and more challenging academic endeavors. I remember the two week period I walked around school in a daze, desperately trying to solve the infamous Scheme problem, “Spin Cycle”, as the first time I was proud of an academic achievement.
I received straight A’s in 8th grade and got the award for the best science student in my grade (a far journey from a C in science the prior year). The summer after 8th grade I took Algebra II to catch up in math (a subject I despised only a few years prior because of my failure to perform in arithmetic timed tests). I received a 99% in the class. In high school, I got straight A’s, a 2340 on the SAT, a 35 on the ACT, received the MIT Book Award my junior year and the Math Career Achievement Award my senior year.
This year is my freshman year at Penn Engineering. I am very happy to inform you that I am the single most advanced freshman in the computer science curriculum at Penn. To illustrate it differently, after next semester, I will have only 2 classes left to complete the core requirements in my computer science major. I guess I’ll get to take a lot of grad school courses and electives. 🙂 Although I haven’t gotten grades back yet, I can report that I have received all A’s so far in my classes, which are: Data Structures and Algorithms, Introduction to Computer Hardware, Introduction to the Theory of Computation, The Art of Recursion, and Introduction to Legal Studies (for a little break).
I’d like to tell you about The Art of Recursion for a moment. My classmates in this class are juniors, seniors and grad students. They have interned at Microsoft, Facebook, and many other high profile tech companies. Two of them even teach courses in computer science at Penn (iPhone Development and Introduction to Python). And as you can imagine, I am totally rocking this Haskell-based course with my IMACS background. I am happy to report that I just got an A+ on the midterm.
I am so incredibly grateful to all of you at IMACS for helping me get to where I am today. I honestly could not have done it without you guys. Your curriculum for education in math and computer science is a model for every educator to follow.