LAHS students empower the next generation of computer engineers

Courtesy of CENG
Monta Loma junior mentor Deven Merced, right, shares his computer science knowledge with classmate Angel Marshal.

Truly mastering a skill means being able to turn around and teach what you’ve been taught. That’s the case for members of Los Altos High School’s Computer Engineers of the Next Generation club, who have done their job so well that they been replaced by sixth-graders they trained.

CENG, which teaches after-school coding classes at local elementary schools, returned to Monta Loma Elementary School this fall after teaching a program on the Mountain View campus last March.

“We ran the class last year and we noticed that we had a couple of real standout students,” CENG president Anyka Chan said of the Monta Loma “junior mentors,” Deven Merced and Allie Becker. “We really wanted them to be involved, even though we weren’t teaching any new material. We thought it would be a great opportunity for them to learn how to teach their peers and learn another new skill that they can use later in life.”

“We help them find where to go instead of just telling them what to do, which can take out the fun,” Merced, a sixth-grader, said of his leadership role.

Becker, also a sixth-grader and Merced’s fellow junior mentor, already has her eyes on the future. When asked if being singled out for her skills made her think about what she wanted to do when she grew up, she was confident in her answer: “I want to be a software engineer!”

“I’m often surprised by how much they can learn and pick up the materials,” Chan said of the elementary school students. “I know that in fifth grade, I was not good at coding. I wasn’t even super into coding until sophomore year of high school.”

According to Monta Loma Principal Gloria Higgins, her students have benefited immensely from CENG’s efforts.

“It was particularly rewarding to see our students develop leadership and tech skills at the same time,” Higgins said. “The program beautifully integrates computer science, leadership and collaboration. It’s been a wonderful experience for all involved.”

Fundraising fun

While at Monta Loma last year, CENG members noticed that their young protégés needed new Chromebooks. To raise money for the computers, they sold duct-tape wallets at the Community Yard Sale in Rengstorff Park in May, generating $187 for the purchase of one new Chromebook.

This year, students have set a more ambitious goal.

“We talked to the principal and the PTA (at Monta Loma), and they’ve agreed to host another duct-tape wallet sale,” Chan said. “We’re going to come here on some mornings and afternoons and hope we can sell enough to buy them two new Chromebooks.”

CENG members also plan to continue expanding their curriculum and teaching more advanced classes, including JavaScript and Python. Next up, CENG is scheduled to bring its program back to Santa Rita School in March.

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