Editorial Notebook

Computer skills learned outside the CS curriculum

Editor commends computing club

As a computer science student, I find myself particularly inclined to know about various pieces of software and to learn various computer skills. My knowledge of such things comes from a few distinct sources, such as learning something in the classroom, my friends telling me about their new favorite apps, or just by browsing the internet. Due to the peer-to-peer discovery of such information, I often wonder what great technology I and other students—especially those outside of the CS curriculum—are missing out on simply because we haven’t been exposed to it. Wouldn’t it be great if there was another source of computer knowledge, giving all students a way to share and learn about various computer technologies?

RPI Computing Club is a newly formed club dedicated to promoting all things computer-related. Students are able to not only discover and learn, but also to share by presenting their favorite app, programming language, or other piece of software. At each bi-weekly meeting, the presentations usually focus around a given topic. For example, the first meeting’s topic was “Operating Systems.” A presentation was given for each major desktop OS—Linux, OSX, and Windows—giving attendees an overview of the benefits and flaws of each system. This was followed by an open discussion, allowing everyone the chance to talk to presenters directly and interact with other club members.

I have personally enjoyed each meeting, not only for learning about new software, but also to learn more about software I already use. The previous meeting focused on various text editors, with presenters demoing their favorite editor and describing its features. While I was a bit overwhelmed by the Emacs presentation, I paid close attention to the presentation on Vim, a program I use almost daily. The presenter displayed a variety of functions and shortcuts available to Vim users; while I wasn’t able to learn all of them from his presentation, I was inspired to explore Vim’s features on my own time.

Another meeting featured a sole presentation focused on Android development. RPI’s Upsilon Pi Epsilon chapter led club members through creating an Android application from scratch using Google’s Android Developer Kit. Following along, I was able to create a simple “Hello World” app, send it to my phone, and test it on a real device. Learning how to code Android apps had always been a project on my to-do list, and this was the perfect experience for me to get involved.

The RPI Computing club is a great experience for anyone with an interest in computers, as it can expand your knowledge regardless of your current software usage. The next meeting is taking place today, Wednesday, March 20 at 6 pm in Lally 102, with the topic of “.NET Framework in C#.” This particular meeting may only appeal to programmers, but be sure to check the RPI Computing Club’s Facebook page for future meetings and topics.