Programming advice straight from OGPC.


he Oregon Game Project Challenge (OGPC) takes place every year, and we’ve given it coverage in the past. This year, another group called Getting Smart went and interviewed Wilson High School teacher Chris Bartlow, who teaches math and programming in Portland.

Chris said that these three things are really important for good programming:

  1. The first is that students need to work on sizeable projects in teams at some point in their learning
  2. The second is that computer science is really a special kind of problem solving and that the specific programming language didn’t matter all that much, and
  3. Finally you actually need to sit down and use the programming language to learn it (practice to gain proficiency).

So what do these three things mean for you? Let’s look at them in order.

Working on sizeable projects: Obviously taking programming and computer science classes will help, but there’s more to it than that. A one-term programming class probably won’t be long enough for a huge project, similar in scale to what you’d do in the professional world.

That’s why you need to work on your own projects. Working on independent projects, like smartphone games or custom applications, will help you develop the project-management skills you need for life as a professional programmer.

Computer science as problem solving: Because programming is basically the craft of taking a huge problem and breaking it down into little problems, logic and thinking classes will be very useful for you.

Things like IB Theory of Knowledge or, if your school doesn’t offer that, even just regular math classes will help. But you can take it a step further. Hunt down logic puzzles, riddles, mazes, and strategy games and play them nonstop.

Learning a programming language: While they’re a little different since they’re designed to give a computer instructions, programming languages are much the same as real-world languages. After all, they have grammar (syntax) and vocabulary (statements).

What that means is that if you want to get ahead of everyone else, you need to go out of your way to learn new programming statements, and practice using correct programming syntax. So you need to program. A lot. That’s going to help you more than anything. Try to make one new program every week, even if it’s simple. And try to learn something new every time!


These tips come straight from a great programming teacher at Wilson High School, whose team competed at OGPC, so this advice comes backed up by a lot of experience. Get Real recommends you do these as well to become a great programmer. And we also think you should read our ever-growing Teach Yourself Programming series.


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