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By Ben DuMont
Oct 8th, 2015

St. Louis University High’s academic program continues to set itself apart with a highly qualified and dedicated faculty, extensive electives and AP offerings, and coursework that is applicable to today’s world. The Computer Science program, a paradigm of the school’s academic excellence, provides engaging and expansive classes that prepare students well for the 21st century.

“We have a very robust Computer Science program at SLUH,” says Principal John Moran. “It has really grown over the years and is a unique opportunity for our students, one that few others in the Midwest have at the high school level.”

Currently, SLUH offers 10 electives in Computer Science—which is significantly more than most high schools. These offerings include:

  • AP Computer Science
  • Computer Fundamentals (required for freshmen)
  • Computer Game Programming
  • Computer Science: Advanced Topics
  • Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
  • Introduction to C++ Programming
  • Introduction to Java Programming
  • Introduction to iPhone Application Development
  • Introduction to Robotics
  • Web Programming (XTML, CSS, Javascript and PHP)

“Some of our courses are actually college level,” says Computer Science instructor Steve Nicollerat. “Our program lets our students determine if they want to explore Computer Science, and if they do, it makes them proficient and prepares them for college and beyond.”

SLUH’s Computer Science program teaches scholars how to think logically and visualize a problem, break it down, then solve it in a practical manner through programming. In the Artificial Intelligence course, for instance, they learn how to make computers think and respond to the environment.

“There is a lot of excitement building for our program among our students,” says Computer Science teacher Dan See, who adds that more than 200 Jr. Bills elect to take Computer Fundamentals during the summer before their freshman year. “In class we emphasize learning, creating and applying ideas. We also encourage community building and the need to learn from one another and share ideas.”

“SLUH does a great job at preparing students in various programming languages,” says Andrew Long ’14, currently attending Missouri University of Science and Technology. “C++ was a breeze my first semester in college, and Data Structures & Algorithms was a lot easier my second semester after Mr. Nicollerat’s Advanced Topics class.”

To supplement their pursuit of core knowledge, Jr. Bills learn about practical application in Computer Science. For instance, they have the opportunity to bring hands-on learning of robotics to urban middle-school students in 11 different schools through the Clavius Project. They also take field trips to leading technology companies, such as World Wide Technology and Asynchrony. Future opportunities may include internships and a trip to visit alumni leaders in Silicon Valley.

Alumni often mention how the coursework at SLUH not only prepared them well for college, but also helped them earn internships that proved instrumental in launching their careers. Some recent graduates have gained employment at highly sough-after companies such as Google and Microsoft.

“SLUH’s C++ class is what got me interested in the topic and for that I’m extremely grateful,” says Joe Bettger ’10, who graduated from Bellarmine University with a Computer Science degree. He adds that the foundation he gained at SLUH was instrumental to inspiring and launching his career as a programmer at the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank.

Nicollerat, however, is not content to serve as a teacher and resource for only his students and future alumni—he wants to help other schools build and strengthen their own Computer Science programs. He has the know-how because he spearheaded the development of SLUH’s program, which in 2001 consisted of just two Computer Science courses and one instructor—now there are 10 courses and three teachers.

“There are a lot of things teachers and administrators can do to build their programs with limited resources,” he says. “They can rotate courses on the calendar and get creative with the schedule.”

Even as Nicollerat offers to help other schools, he continues to grow and develop SLUH’s program. In fact, next school year his team hopes to add another AP Computer Science course and is exploring the possibility of classes addressing Computer Security, Computer Hardware, Networking and Micro-Processing. These new offerings reflect the shift from a field that historically has been software oriented to now more hardware-driven. All the while, SLUH continues to receive positive feedback from alumni who laud the school for preparing them for their future. 

“The computer science classes I took at SLUH helped me get such a quick and ultimately successful start to my career,” says Kevin Meier ’09. “SLUH introduced me to the fundamental logical structures of code and their proper implementation slowly and consistently until they became almost second nature. Such familiarity has proven to be a huge asset when I am required to type large blocks of code that must be resilient and adaptable.”

This article was originally published on St. Louis University High’s website.