Our mission: Dawson School is dedicated to excellence of mind, body, and character.
We prepare students, through challenging and relevant learning,
to become creative, resilient problem-solvers who bring their best to the world.
The Dawson Distinction in Coding and Innovation is a special recognition for those students who have excelled at programming and have used computers and technology to build exceptional creations. Computers are disrupting our society at every level, so some knowledge of how to code a computer has become as essential as the ability to write a grammatically correct sentence or understand algebraic syntax. To encourage mastery in computer science and innovation, Dawson will honor student achievement in these areas. In addition to a distinction on their transcript, each student will finish the program with an impressive portfolio of projects. 

The Dawson Distinction in Coding and Innovation will be awarded at graduation and is designed to:
  • Acknowledge students who have achieved a significant level of ability in computer science.
  • Encourage students to learn how to code and use computers in a productive, innovative way.
  • Inspire students to think like coders: to be creative, to pull apart a concept and put it back together in new ways, and to joyfully leap into projects on subjects about which they may know little.
Distinction in Coding and Innovation: Program Details
To earn the Distinction in Coding and Innovation, students must:
  1. Complete four semesters of upper school classes related to computer science and innovation including AP Computer Science. These courses currently include:
    1. AP Computer Science (2 semesters). Students must pass the AP CS exam with a 3 or better or earn an average of 90 or higher in the class for both semesters.
    2. Programming I
    3. Game Design
    4. App Development
    5. Inventing with Technology
    6. Physics & Design: Introduction to Engineering
    7. Digital Art
  1. Demonstrate competency in at least four programming languages, including Java and Javascript, as well as two languages (Arduino, Python, C++, C#, Scratch, etc.) of their own choosing. Students may demonstrate competency in a language by using the language in one of their major or enhanced assignments.
  1. Complete three major projects related to programming. For example, projects might include:
  1. Building an interactive website
  2. Designing the art for another programmer’s application
  3. Creating an interactive, Arduino-controlled artistic sculpture 
  4. Developing the AI structure for the RC Dawson robot
  5. Managing the business and marketing for a group of programmers
These major projects will be presented to the Dawson Community and to a panel of judges at a Distinction in Coding and Innovation Showcase held in December each year. Students must be able to communicate goals and outcomes of each major project clearly and have a tangible product to display and discuss with visitors, including the panel. Major projects should reflect a meaningful investment of time, effort, and learning. 

  1. Complete four enhanced assignments, in which students augment their work in one of their classes through the use of computer programming.  These enhancements might include programming a simulation, animating a math problem, building an interactive website, etc. Students must work with their teachers and their DCI mentor to get approval for the enhanced assignment before completing the project.
  1. Create, maintain, and organize an ongoing digital portfolio that includes all of the student’s work towards earning the Distinction in Coding and Innovation. This archive should include materials for all major and enhanced assignments along with supporting documentation, including code, presentation materials, and photos/videos. Students can use Github or an alternative platform to create their digital portfolios.
Distinction in Coding and Innovation Application Process

Students interested in pursuing the Distinction in Coding and Innovation must apply to take part in the program.

After submitting the application, students will meet with the Director of Technology to set goals for the coming year and make sure they are set up for success in the program.

Topics for the initial meeting:
  • Technology courses completed to date and plans for future coursework
  • Major projects completed to date and plans for upcoming projects
  • Enhanced projects completed to date and plans for potential projects to integrate into other classes this year
  • Current mastery of computer languages/skills and plans for new areas in which to work
Each semester, students will have an opportunity to present any of their completed major projects at a Distinction in Coding and Innovation Showcase. Students will meet with the Director of Technology about two weeks before the Showcase to make sure the student is on track and ready to present.

Please contact Jeff Ellenbogen, Director of Technology, with any questions about this program. 303-665-6679 x498.