Taking Android by storm
This year, LAU’s computer science camps offer high school students a chance to design their own smart phone applications.
High school student Jad al-Masry has been busy this summer designing an Android application. He was one of the select few chosen out of over a hundred applicants to be part of LAU Beirut’s Computer Science Summer Camp, organized by LAU’s Department of Computer Science and Mathematics. “I didn’t have any experience in programming but LAU’s instructors taught us how to make an app. My app was simple- it’s a fortuneteller. You can ask her a question and she will answer. You can also scan a room and ask the app if the room is lucky and it will tell you. Its works randomly, like a magic 8-Ball.”
It is no accident that the leaders of LAU’s Beirut Computer Science Summer Camp and Byblos Computer Science Summer Institute decided to focus on Android development for their fourth edition. With 1,346,372 Android applications in the market, 25 billion downloads and 85% of the market share, Android development is the wave of the future when it comes to computer programming. LAU, who has been at the forefront of computer science regionally – establishing the first program in Lebanon and becoming the first to be ABET accredited – is riding the wave.
The Computer Science camps aim to offer Lebanese high school students an opportunity to learn some programming skills and an introduction to the field of Computer Science. Karim Jahed, instructor at LAU Beirut camp explains, “We chose to teach them some basic Android programming because most of the students own Android phones. We also gave them a glimpse of what Computer Science is and a taste of what they will learn if they major in it.”
According to Dr. Faisal Abukhzam, chairperson of the department, the camp has been instrumental in launching future programmers. “One of our students learned programming at LAU’s summer camp and later decided to open up his own mobile app company called, Virtual. He is doing very well now, and has developed mobile apps for the American University of Beirut and the University of California at Berkeley. This camp has a very impressive track record.”
This summer, both camps – which culminated in creating demo applications – received over 150 applicants each to fill the 35 coveted spots. The competition jury asked students to run their application demos to see if they fulfilled all requirements and the winners were selected based on certain criteria, such as creativity. This year, the Camp and Institute awarded prizes that included a Galaxy Tab and cash awards, as well as LAU scholarships. Pierre al-Rahi, who won first prize for his Android app, felt it was earned: “The experience was very competitive, and left me feeling challenged on every level.”
Dr. Danielle Azar, chairperson of the Department of Computer Science and Mathematics in Byblos, describes the goal of the camps as two-fold. “We want to educate people about the computing field in general, as a career. Secondly, we want to introduce people to our program at LAU. We have some of the best faculty not only in Lebanon, but throughout the region and we are very proud of that,” she says.