New Computer Science Teacher Brings NASA Experience to Northside College Prep
by S. Aleksander Black
This year, Northside welcomes a new faculty member who is spearheading several computer science courses. Dr. Smadar Bergman, who has a doctorate in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, began teaching at Northside College Prep this September and is teaching Exploring Computational Thinking, Web Page and Mobile App Design, and AP Computer Science. These classes were formerly taught by department chair Mr. Don Yanek, but Dr. Bergman is filling in for him during his leave of absence this school year.
Dr. Bergman has extensive work experience with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She was a principal investigator at the Ames Research Center for NASA and led a research team in testing various machine learning theories. The research was to prepare for potential future NASA technology and to investigate the possible applications of artificial intelligence in space.
Dr. Bergman said that her interest in the computer science field stemmed from her constant interest in math and technology throughout her childhood. She said she was first inspired to consider researching artificial intelligence at a professional level after seeing a Public Broadcasting Service Nova television show as a child about the topic and being enamored with the potential behind the concept. This led her to investigate further into computer science and eventually choose it as a career path for research and teaching.
She began teaching 12 years ago, teaching for six years at the college level and then another six years at the high school level. A large amount of her work in college involved researching for Northwestern’s Research Institute of Learning, where she continued to learn about her passion of robotics and machines. She worked within the Chicago Public School system at a high school for several years as a teacher in the computer science field and has extensive teaching experience.
Dr. Bergman was born in Israel, and lived there for the early years of her life. She can speak Hebrew fluently and when she turned 11, she moved to the United States with her family. Dr. Bergman then attended school in the U.S. and received her doctorate in computer science. She encourages students to look into computer science, as it can be an enjoyable and accessible experience for anyone. “You can code. Anyone can do it, and it is the literacy of the 21st century,” she said. She added how crucial it is to be able to code, considering its increasing relevance in society. As computers and programming integrate more and more into daily lives, her chief goal remains to make sure all her students are literate in this technological world.
Outside of the classroom, Dr. Bergman is an award-winning amateur photographer, avid artist in both papercrafts and fabrics, and has recently been branching out into working on mosaics. She especially likes to crochet in her spare time. She is a devout follower of the Jewish faith and observes the laws of Sabbath and various holidays. She maintains a policy of no emails over weekends, as they will not be answered, and instead prefers that all questions or comments be made during the week.
Dr. Bergman’s unique teaching methods and advanced knowledge of technology make her classroom different than the traditional computer science teaching, and will be demonstrated throughout the year in her classes.