Ethan Hood, '25, addresses the CompSci in Bethlehem club on Sept. 26 in Neville Hall. CompSci in Bethlehem will have its first after-school outreach event on Oct. 12, and will teach at Broughal Middle School twice a month. (Kwynsky Miguel/B&W Staff)

CompSci in Bethlehem shares the code to computer science


When Daniel DeMasi, ‘25, was handed a computer in middle school, his eyes were opened to the world of computer science.

Now, as co-founder of the CompSci in Bethlehem club, DeMasi helps teach the subject he loves to students in Bethlehem middle schools.

“That opportunity to get access to a computer like that and explore on my own, that really grew my interest in technology,” DeMasi said. 

DeMasi, who is majoring in computer science and engineering as part of the integrated business and engineering program, said the club was founded in the spring 2023 semester as a result of him and some of his friends feeling there weren’t enough computer science-related activities on campus. 

According to LINC, the purpose of the CompSci in Bethlehem club is to “educate local secondary students in computer science to ignite their passion for programming,” and serve as “a supportive community that helps members with coding homework, assignments and projects.”

Although their meetings have mainly consisted of planning events and creating a curriculum, so far, DeMasi said the club will have its first after-school outreach event on Oct. 12 and will begin teaching at Broughal Middle School twice a month.

DeMasi said the curriculum will use the platform “Scratch” to explore computer science through gaming. The students will play the game, observe the code and then learn how to code their own game.

Kallie Ziltz, ‘16, a professor in the computer science and engineering department, said when the co-founders approached her with the club idea, she was immediately on board, as she already represents the department in outreach opportunities that introduce engineering and computer science topics to middle school girls.

She said if there was ever a club fit for her to advise, this was the one. 

When Ziltz was a student at Lehigh, she studied computer science and business. 

“I sort of have gone through all the classes, and then I figured that what I liked about computer science is teaching it,” Ziltz said. “So what I’ve done in my graduate work has been studying computer science education.”

Ziltz said she has been hands-off with running the club, as she wants the e-board members to run it in their own way. She said she attended a few club meetings and e-board meetings to give her opinions. 

She has also brought in spherical robots called Spheros, which help promote STEAM learning (science, technology, engineering, the arts and math). DeMasi said the Sphero is tablet-controlled that has the ability to change color and move in response to drawing on the tablet. Zilts purchased the Spheros to implement them as part of the club’s curriculum at Broughal.

Executive board members Daniel DeMasi, ’25, Ethan Hood, ’25, David King, ’25, and Emir Veziroglu, ’25, hosted a general meeting for the CompSci in Bethlehem club on Sept. 26 in Neville Hall. The club works to teach local middle school students about computer science. (Kwynsky Miguel/B&W Staff)

DeMasi said there are currently about 30 consistent members in the club and each attendee gets more involved at least once during each meeting. 

Vasanthavel Jeeva Kumararaja, ‘27, said he joined the club in hopes of learning new computer science skills, making connections and enhancing his own leadership qualities. 

He said he wants the middle school students to feel encouraged to have fun with learning and realize they don’t need formal lessons to learn new skills.

“I’d like to hope that (the students) know that it’s okay being new to the subject and want to still learn it,” Kumararaja said. “Learning something like computer science might seem very daunting or confusing, but it’s something as simple as problem-solving, it’s as simple as just learning how to use some skills to figure out a solution.” 

Kumararaja said CompSci in Bethlehem also gives him the opportunity to learn new computer science skills while simultaneously applying these technical skills in his teachings to the students.

Motahareh Lotfaliani, ‘24G, said she joined the club to be an LGBTQ+ representative for the STEM community and serve as a role model for young students. 

She said she wants the students to understand that programming and mathematics aren’t as hard as they may believe and teach them to have confidence in their problem-solving abilities.

“I’m super excited to work with kids, and I can’t wait to help them,” Lotfaliani said. “I heard that they look at Lehigh students as superheroes.”

If she were a young student with no experience in coding, Ziltz said having a group of college students, particularly some female students, come into her classroom would have helped her feel more optimistic about herself and computer science.

Ziltz said she hopes that in addition to middle schoolers benefiting from the club, the members are able to gain a better understanding of computer science through teaching students and having them ask questions.

“Computer science is not this sort of magical thing that happens behind closed doors,” Ziltz said. “I think the more experiences we can give students that are hands-on, (they) are opportunities for them to try something and to fail — and maybe just to introduce them to coding. It’s just gonna be such an important life skill.” 

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