Yeah, I'm sorry to say it, but it must happen.  Unfortunately, I will not be participating in the 2011-2012 BDPA HSCC program.

What Gives?

In short:  I don't think the program is improving.  It improved wonderfully for my first year or two, and then went stagnant.  To be a little more clear, the circumstances have improved (volunteers, outside involvement, etc), but the program (the impact we have on the kids, how well we treat our students and alum, our ability to organize) has not.  I believe that our curriculum changes are going to wound the program and undo the last few years of work that we've (myself, the other volunteers, officers, and others who've contributed) put in.  Quite frankly, I think the curriculum is nothing short of embarrassing.  Giving up almost every Saturday for 6 months at a time without any call-outs or mishaps is not easy or comfortable.  It's a welcome sacrifice when it's making an impact and when things are getting better.  I no longer think that's the case.

So, Stop Being a Wuss and Change the Curriculum!

I'm supposed to be part of a team.  That means that I'm supposed to trust others and that others are supposed to trust me so that we can achieve maximum cooperation.  I can't give up every Saturday, be one of the central hubs of communication, and undo everyone's mistakes.  I have to trust that my team mates, my partners in crime, will fill in and do what they're supposed to do.  After seeing what has gone into that curriculum, which was written by a Java programmer and adjusted by a professor with a masters degree in education, I've lost that trust.  It was that awful.

What Was So Awful About It?

Without actually showing the document, which I think would be unethical, it lays out a plan for teaching Java, HTML, CSS, JSP, SQL, cyber security, mobile apps, and their respective tools (Eclipse, MySql admin tools, etc etc words words words) in less than one calendar year.

Let that settle in for a moment.

While looking at the 2011 HSCC programming problem, I thought to myself: "Self, this problem is probably difficult for a lot of the kids that I went to Temple with."  The problem's not hard because it's a difficult problem.  It just uses a ton of different technologies that the kids have to be competent in and have to be able to orchestrate together.  In order for students to troubleshoot their own compilation and run-time issues, they need to have a good handle on all of those different layers.  They have to understand the non-obvious things.  That simply takes time.  To get to the point where someone could do this type of project at Temple, one had to take 8+ computer science related classes.  That means that if you were a college student, you'd have to pack (and possibly overload) 2 full semesters of nothing but computer stuff to get there.  Even if someone did this, you can probably guess why they'd have a hard time.  Some of those classes happen in sequence for a reason -- you need to gain understanding in one so that it can be applied to another.

The "everything in one year" approach is simply unreasonable and wrong.

Why the Public Announcement?

First and foremost, this is a big deal to me.  I've poured a lot of heart into this program.  This is not being taken lightly at all.  If I'm going to go through the trouble of separation, then I need to have it clearly stated why.  Secondly, I want kids who participated to know.  It's a tough choice for me -- I almost feel like I'm abandoning them.  I want them to know that I refuse to waste their time on something that I think is not going to benefit them.  I want to have an impact on them.  Thirdly, I hope that other chapters and members see this and get something from it.  Even if people disagree with my actions and my reasons, I hope that I've caused people to take a look at their values and goals related to this program.

With that, I wish everyone involved the best and hope that they all prove me wrong.

- bstempi