A picture of Rohan Mehta.

Rohan Mehta

Rohan Mehta is a current high school senior with a driving interest in applied math, and how it intersects physics, biology, and computation. He is an AI literacy and synthetic biology advocate, and regularly holds workshops to expose middle and high schoolers in his local community to ideas from these fields. He is also a functional programming zealot, and loves expanding his programming language repertoire in his free time (currently, he is trying to tackle Rust). Professionally, he is a Research Fellow at the Wolfram Institute and independent machine learning researcher at the ML Collective. On the side, he enjoys playing tennis and golf, reading dystopian sci-fi, and writing on his blog.



Functional Programming For High Schoolers

I am a high school student (current senior) who first discovered Clojure in the 9th grade. It opened my eyes up to the world of functional programming and Lisps, and helped me fall in love with programming all over again after I was getting bored with Python. While Clojure is still the FP language I am most comfortable with (my website is written from scratch in it!), I was so taken in by the idea of FP that I decided to explore languages like Haskell, OCaml, APL, and the Wolfram Language as well. The culmination of this interest was the first ever iteration of the Paradigm Conference, a conference hosted by a team of high schoolers (including myself) from around the world, completely for high schoolers and all about FP programming languages that are underrepresented in high school CS curriculums. In my talk, I would like to make a case for why Clojure is a great first introduction to the world of FP and why it SHOULD be included in high school CS curriculums. I will talk about my own experience learning the language, how this inspired me to create a variety of educational resources for the participants in the conference, and the impact learning FP had on them. Finally, I will present a vision of how we might be able to introduce Clojure into high school curriculums, by extending parts of the existing AP Computer Science curriculum (written in Java) for Clojure. This talk is meant to be a cross between anecdotal (my experiences learning Clojure, running the conference, and seeing its impact on participants) and visionary (presenting some actionable ideas for how we can get more younger people excited about my favourite Lisp!).