What to Do This Summer

By Anne Li

Photo by Sean O. on Unsplash

Note: this post is geared towards middle- and high-school students.

In the past few months, many middle- and high-school students around the country have had their summer camps, jobs, or other activities cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re one of them, you’re probably wondering: What now? Here at Allgirlithm, we want to help you make your summer fun and rewarding. Here’s a list of computer science and artificial intelligence-related activities you could try this summer:

1. Expand your Coding Portfolio
One thing you could do this summer is expand your coding portfolio! You could do so by working on side projects—for example, apps, games, or algorithmic puzzles. This will often expose you to new technologies and solutions, and improve your coding abilities and confidence. Here are specific ideas, along with some possible programming languages and IDEs:

  • Apple apps (iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS); Swift programming language and Xcode IDE (Free, but costs money to publish to App Store)

  • Android apps; Java programming language and MIT App Inventor, IntelliJ, or Android Studio (Free, but costs money to publish to Google Play Store)

  • Windows desktop apps; C/C++, C#, Python, Java programming languages and Microsoft Visual Studio (Community edition is free)

  • Web applications and extensions, using Angular, React, HTML, CSS, and Javascript

And if you ever find yourself stuck on a coding or design problem, you can always consult StackOverflow or Reddit!

2. Create a Personal Website
Creating a personal website is one of the best ways to showcase the work you’ve done and highlight your accomplishments. If you’re completely new to web development, you could give Weebly and Wix a try—both are easy-to-use, WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) website builders. Or, if you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, you could try Wordpress, a blog-focused service that allows for a bit more customization.

Other great technologies include GitHub and Jekyll, React, and HTML, CSS, and Javascript. Compared to Weebly, Wix, and Wordpress, these languages and platforms will let you get a bit more involved in terms of coding and design. These options may make building your website more time-consuming—you’ll probably have to do more setup and debugging—but they’ll also provide you more opportunities to customize and personalize.

3. Conduct Remote and/or Self-Guided Research
Another thing you could do this summer is conduct research at home! Your research could be related to anything, but here are some CS/AI-related ideas:

  • Build a machine learning model to classify animals—for example, mammals. Test different machine learning classifiers to determine which works best.

  • Design three separate functions to perform a certain task—for example, using different algorithmic designs, or different data structures—then test their efficiencies to determine the optimal design.

  • This one is a survey rather than an experiment: design three different user interfaces for an app, then survey a group of people to determine which design is most-liked.

4. Contribute to Open-Source Projects, including Coronavirus-Related Projects
GitHub has millions of public repositories for open-source projects you might want to contribute to! These include everything from fun and quirky web extensions to IDE plugins to machine learning software packages for technologies like Tensorflow.

Tons of different coronavirus-related projects have emerged in light of the pandemic. You could look through some open-source repositories—many of them are tagged “coronavirus”, “covid”, or something similar—and contribute your code or non-technical work to any that interest you. This Github repository has a list of coronavirus-related projects; be sure to check it out!

5. Participate in Online Hackathons and Coding Competitions
If you go to Devpost and scroll down, you’ll see a list of online hackathons taking place in the near future—for example, hack:now and HackDSC. Take a look at these and see which ones you’re interested in! Many of them offer cash prizes and tech gadgets for winners.

A number of websites host coding competitions on scheduled days throughout the year, as well as training programs and practice problems open to users anytime. Some examples include TopcoderCodeForcesCodeChefHackerRankUSACO, and USACO’s Training Gateway. Training for and participating in coding competitions will improve your algorithmic thinking and problem-solving skills, which will help you in many of your other endeavors!

6. Take an Online Course
CourseraedX, and Udemy are all great websites offering a variety of online courses. Codecademy is also offering Codecademy Pro for free during the remainder of this semester.

If you want to try some college-sponsored courses, MIT OpenCourseWareHarvard Online Learning, and Stanford Online are great places to start. One of the most popular CS MOOCs of all time is Harvard’s CS50 class, an introductory class in programming, algorithms, and data structures.

Note: many of these activities require Internet connection. Some Internet service providers are offering free or low-cost programs. Here are a few links to information that may be of interest to you; it may also help to check with your school district or city/state government for more information.

1. Your Guide to Internet Service During New Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak
2. Get online during the coronavirus outbreak
3. Comcast, AT&T, Sprint offering free or low-cost internet for students amid COVID-19 crisis