Drawing students to computer science
Ecy King, a senior class president and Major Grant recipient, graduates in June with a bachelor’s degree in symbolic systems. Her educational comic book Bit by Bit will be printed by Stanford University Press for use by future students.
Ecy King’s notebooks are filled with doodles. Specifically, doodles arranged in three-by-three grids with a boldly outlined center square. “It’s this technique my dad came up with, and it’s recursive, meaning that each one of the little cells can become another grid with a bolded center,” she says. “It’s just a way to organize thoughts, to come up with different ideas, to summarize learning.”
During the pandemic shutdown, the symbolic systems major taught coding online to students around the world, volunteered at a girls’ coding camp, and was a section leader for Stanford’s introductory computer science courses. While studying education at the Stanford program in Oxford in winter 2022, an idea for combining her passions for education, computer science, and visual thinking as a tool for learning emerged from her sketches.
With funding from the Major Grant program, King started work on a comic book to help students study for CS106A and 106B. She spent the following summer at Stanford, practicing her drawing skills, working as a teaching assistant for 106B, and getting feedback from her students. This spring, she completed Bit by Bit, which uses line drawings of characters like Sir Python Snake and C++ Camel, Esquire, to teach computer science concepts arranged in fractal grids with a core idea in the center and supporting information in the surrounding boxes.
“Computer science is inherently visual even though people might not think of it that way,” she says. “Making it approachable but also enjoyable and a source of educational entertainment would be really fun.”
Empowering others to learn underlies many of King’s activities at Stanford. She served as a senior class president and member of the Undergraduate Student Advisory Board. As a writer for The Stanford Daily and member of the Stanford African Students Association and Black Student Union, she’s shared her family’s story and taught others about Black and African culture.
King will continue her studies at Stanford in fall 2023, earning a co-term master’s degree in computer science with an emphasis in human-computer interactions.
Story by Andrew Brodhead, Harry Gregory, Kurt Hickman, Julia James, and Tara Roberts.