Anthony P, a junior in TED computer science, smiles in front of current project

Students like junior Anthony Philavanh are exploring careers that align to their hobbies and interests through pathways classes at Spring Lake Park High School. Through the Technology, Engineering and Design (TED) pathway, Anthony has explored a growing interest in computer science.

For some, an interest in a particular field of study begins at an early age. That’s how it began for Spring Lake Park High School junior, Anthony Philavanh. He noticed early on that he gravitated toward anything related to technology – both in the classroom and at home. Free time, playtime and hobbies usually involved a screen.

“As a little kid, I was always watching YouTube videos and playing games – basically learning how the internet works,” says Anthony. “It’s equal parts complicated and intriguing. That’s why computer science just seemed like a good fit for me.”

Exploration to advanced classes

Early in his high school career, Anthony registered for classes that kicked his initial tech curiosities into high gear. It began with the How to Make Almost Anything class, which introduces students to the foundations of engineering and the design process. Students in this class work in the high school’s Maker Studio to become inventors, artists and creators.

He also took an Introduction to Photography class to explore the science and art of digital photography. Not only did he earn a required art credit, but it was also a unique approach to explore his creative side while still learning about the functional aspects of technology through cameras.

In preparation for junior year, Anthony’s strategy focused on taking advanced classes in a more specific area of study: computer science.

“When I was doing course registration last year as a sophomore, I started to really think about what I wanted to do and plan around that,” says Anthony.

Anthony P is a junior and enjoys studying computer science

Anthony’s plan led to participation in the yearlong course, AP Computer Science Principles. Students can earn college credit upon the completion of (and earning a passing score on) the AP exam.

The exam is not the typical multiple choice test; instead, students have to prove application of their learning through program code, a video and written response. Students have already completed the performance assessment portion of the exam, which accounts for 30 percent of the score.

“It's way different from any other AP exam,” says Anthony. “In the performance task, we had to incorporate all of the materials we’ve learned all year. I had to create a program that solves a problem with all of the required materials."

Students put into action everything they’ve learned in the course about algorithms, programming, data, creative development and basic levels of coding. While the exams are an individual endeavor, Anthony points out that learning the knowledge-based components in class has made it a collaborative environment with classmates.

“We can choose options for different levels of coding based on difficulty and everyone’s experience level,” says Anthony. “As of right now I'm really enjoying it and learning a lot – much more than if it were still just a hobby and I was studying it alone on my own."

Sights on senior year

Anthony is wrapping up junior year with pride that one AP computer science class is almost complete. AP Computer Science - A is the next level up that he plans to take next year as a senior. The class builds on the learning from this year and advances to fully text-based, object-oriented programming language.

Taking these classes in high school has set him up for success, and even allowed time to dream about what may come after high school.  

I think the technology pathway is so broad. There are so many different things that you could use it for. Cyber engineering. It all ties into computer science because you have to understand the principles of how each thing works. No matter what major I might choose in college, it all ties together. Anthony Philavanh, SLPHS junior