School Programs: I'm Available!


I have been trying for over a decade to volunteer into various school systems. Ideally, if you are reading this, you have some interest in my participation, which already puts you over the top (the usual policy is to ignore me, politely or even impolitely).

You can check out my resume on this Web site, or check on other things about me. The quick summary is that I have a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University, and I have eight years of faculty experience in the Computer Science Department. However, because I never bothered to get a Teaching Certificate, the State of Pennsylvania does not consider me to be competent to teach in a grade school or high school (yet I am qualified to teach in any college in the state!) I have written two books on Microsoft Windows programming, and I have been teaching advanced Microsoft Windows courses for five years.

I have some skills in teaching computers to high school and younger students. I can also conduct tutorials for teachers. I have a limited amount of time available, so it is going to be on a first-come, first-served basis. I can also conduct special seminars for students or adults on weekends. I am available to talk to student groups on programming issues or science topics. My interests are wide-ranging beyond computer programming; I have interests in physics, cosmology, astronomy, history of technology, cryptography, and a few other topics.

I have some presentations based on this range of interests, which I give below. I require only a room with electricity and a projection screen or suitable blank wall; I bring everything else.

I am also interested in working one-on-one with students who want to learn to program. Within the limits of my time, this can be at school, in their home, or (with parent or other caregiver in attendance) in my office. Times are flexible and include weekends and evenings. This is a time-consuming task for me, so I can only take on (at most) two students at a time. The usual schedule is a 2-hour or 3-hour session more-or-less weekly (I travel a lot on business, and therefore am not available every week).

I have some physical handicaps (fibromyalgia, which makes walking quite painful), and climbing stairs is not high on my list of fun activities, so I have a slight preference for tutoring from my office. 

I teach programming using Microsoft C/C++, simplifying it as much as possible for beginners. The "learning edition" of this is available for under $100. One student I taught in the past is now majoring in computer graphics. I teach on IBM PC-compatible machines under Windows 9x or NT, and not on Macintoshes. I do not teach "how to use Word/PowerPoint/Excel/FrontPage" or similar applications.

However, if you have or know of a child who has a deep interest in learning to program a computer, I have a track record of success in this. I can cover what they can't get in most schools. Last summer, a 12-year-old and I built a video game (OK, it was pretty simple shoot-down-the-alien-saucers game, but it took all summer!)

I have had all the necessary background checks (no criminal record, etc.) and have in the past been a volunteer in the computer lab at Schenley High School and in the Carnegie Museum's Earth Camp summer programs. If you want to do a similar check on me for your own peace of mind and/or for legal liability reasons, send me a form.

So, you ask, why am I doing this? Back when I had an employer other than myself, I donated a lot of my revenue to what I thought were worthwhile causes, particularly those dealing with education. As a self-employed person, I no longer have that degree of freedom. Mostly, I don't have a lot of disposable income (self-employment has many nice features, but a lot of leisure time and a lot of money are not among them). So I have wanted to return something to the community, although I have found over the last decade the community seems to be somewhere between indifferent and hostile to this effort. Besides, I like teaching. And I don't get to do enough of it.

The programs I have available

I can also tailor these presentations or do other presentations upon request.

Volcanoes: How They Work and How We Study Them (2 hours)

This talk covers the mechanics and history of volcanoes, the mechanisms of volcanic eruption, and how volcanologists study them and attempt to predict their behavior. Some years ago I decided to go back for a Master's degree in geology; I never completed it because I became self-employed, and found that I couldn't run a business and get a degree at the same time. When I could still walk reasonable distances (more than one block without pain) I hiked over the Hawaiian volcanoes and even slept overnight on an erupting volcano.

Your Computer from Inside (2-3 hours)

This talk explains the various parts of the computer, such as the central processor, the motherboard, the display, the mouse, how transistors work, digital logic, and internal workings of the computer in general. Includes hands-on pieces of the computer that the students can examine, and a demonstration of a disk drive using a large-scale model. The students even get to program the instructor. This program is suitable for students from middle school to adults.

The History Of The Earth (2-30 hours)

This covers the history of the Earth starting with the Big Bang and going forward. The formation of stars, the formation of elements, supernovas, and the coalescing of planets are covered. There is an abbreviated form of this presentation which takes about 2 hours, and a much more elaborate and detailed form of the presentation that can extend for several sessions. In the Carnegie Museum Camp Earth program, I taught this as either five half-day sessions (the "short form") or five full-day sessions (the "long form"). We also had a number of labs. The students get to construct a scale-model Solar System, with every planet and planetary distance to scale, and then they lay it out on the sidewalk. To do this exercise takes a couple hours and we need 300 feet of straight space available to lay out the model. Other experiments include determining the height of a ceiling or distance to a building using triangulation techniques and scale modeling, creating a scale model of the Earth in cross-section, and creating a timeline of the Earth to scale. The program is suitable for ages 12-adult.

You can contact me at


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Last modified: May 14, 2011