Students in Break Through Tech’s CS 100 course focus on networking in final week of class

In the fourth and final week of the introductory CS 100 course that is part of Break Through Tech Chicago, students hit rewind and went back to the beginning—to the dawn of the Internet. The week’s theme was networking, from online history to sending data.

Students learned that the Internet began as a Department of Defense project more than 50 years ago, as ARPANET, or Advanced Research Project Agency Network. The goal was to create a communication system that would withstand a nuclear attack. Messages could be broken up into blocks and sent as fast as possible in every direction through a mesh network.

The path that data takes through networks and how it reaches its final destination were some of the concepts covered in this final week of class. In one exercise, students created their own routing table. These tables contain the information necessary for a computer to forward information along the best path to its destination, and they provide instructions to send the information to the next stop on its route.

Students worked in groups of eight, each representing a node, or computer, on an imaginary eight-computer network. They were able to “talk to” two of the seven other nodes in each exchange about the cost of communication with those nodes, and they then repeated the exercise with other pairs of nodes. Put together, the information they collected allowed them to determine the best or cheapest path for sending data across the network. Often, the cheapest route would include more stops than a direct route. Through this exercise, students also learned how computers verify that information is received by a node, so that if a packet is lost it can be retrieved.

By the end of the final week, students had amassed a portfolio of their work.

Jinying Dong, who is entering her sophomore year at UIC, hadn’t considered taking computer science classes before she heard about the Break Through Tech CS 100 summer course. The class changed her long-held beliefs about the subject.

“I didn’t like computer science since I was in elementary school,” Dong said. “I thought it was difficult and complicated, so I didn’t want to learn about it. But after I took this course, I found out how interesting computer science is.”

Dong published the gaming app she created during the final week of the course, and she looks forward to inviting her friends to play online with her.

After this positive experience with tech, Dong, an accounting major, is considering taking additional computer science classes, based on the idea that it could have a positive impact on her career.

Students who want to learn more about Break Through Tech programs can sign up here.