Scripts are for Kids, too!

“Is there a way to merge documents in Google Docs?”

Instead of relying on Google for the answer, staff at New Visions for Public Schools can turn to 16 year-old Tim Cargan, volunteer and creator of the latest, most user-friendly version of autoCrat, the first ever Google Apps Script that merges documents.

Originally designed by the New Visions CloudLab team, autoCrat provides a mail merge function that allows users to share, collaborate and send their merged documents as emails.

Revamped for efficiency and user friendliness, the all-new autoCrat, is set to be released on March 11 as part of Google’s next generation of extensions for Docs - called “Add-ons.”  The menu of Apps Scripts, which will be rebranded as Google Add-Ons, can be found at the top-level menu of Google Docs.

Engaging teenagers in computer science is common at the Singapore American School (SAS), where Tim Cargan spent the past three years taking classes that bolstered his interest in scripting.

Born and raised in England, Tim moved to Singapore with his parents when they relocated for work. While attending SAS, he became part of the 50 percent of students who participate in the school’s technology offerings.

“Early integration of technology is common in Singapore,” said Jay Atwood, high school educational technology coordinator and Google Certified Teacher at SAS. “A lot of the big international schools here have programs in design, technology, computer science and robotics.”

At SAS, one of the largest international schools in the world, with over 4,000 students in grades spanning pre-K to high school, technology is integrated early. Students start with makey makeys and LEGO Mindstorms in elementary school, learn basic coding and programming applications like Scratch in middle school and take more advanced classes like mobile app development, game design, robotics and AP computer science in high school, creating a digital playland for tech-curious students like Tim.

“I’ve always been interested in programming,” said Tim, who stands 6 feet tall and is soft-spoken, with a hint of a British accent. “When I was 13, I just decided one day to try it out myself, so I went online to learn and I made a calculator.”

Shortly after, Tim went on to take programming with Visual Basic in the 8th grade, robotics by the 9th grade and began experimenting with code in his spare time. By 10th grade, he was taking AP computer science and actively participating in Digital Frontiers, a student group providing technology support solutions for the school.

During Tim’s sophomore year, while SAS was adapting Google Apps Scripts, like autoCrat, FormMule and Doctopus, for greater productivity and efficiency, Jay Atwood provided Tim with a challenge that would put his coding skills to the test.

“We wanted to build something that could assess people’s knowledge of Google Apps like Gmail,” said Jay. “We needed a test generator where we could put in multiple choice questions and it would randomize the questions and answers. I knew Tim could build it.”

Tim began writing a script for “Quiz Ninja” when his parents were called to relocate to New York. Jay immediately connected Tim with the New Visions CloudLab team.

While volunteering at New Visions several hours a week, Tim took time a break from working on autoCrat’s new user interface, to visit the Google offices and present his “Quiz Ninja” tool to a group of teachers, who were impressed by his capabilities.

Although technology integration in NYC public schools is not as widespread as in Singapore, there are burgeoning, government and industry funded programs and schools including NYC Generation Tech, the Academy for Software Engineering, Code.org, the NYC Foundation for Computer Science Education and expanded computer science instruction that will teach NYC students how to use technology in innovative and productive ways.

“There is a really big misconception that adults have about students and their use of technology and their true abilities,” said Jay. “They know how to post on Facebook, but they have to be taught to use technology to troubleshoot problems, play, fail and learn from those failures.These are the skills that companies look for. Students like Tim will be extremely successful because they’ll be able to use technology to solve real problems.”

Tim is currently attending the United Nations International School and was honored to present the new autoCrat at the SXSWedu Google Teaching Theater earlier this month.

To install the new and improved autoCrat add-on click here.

 
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