It was with great excitement and anticipation that 29 Woldingham girls and four teachers arrived at Heathrow Airport on Saturday 14 October. After a busy half term, we were ready to step aboard the plane and visit the USA!
After a nine and a half hour flight (that included plenty of film watching and not nearly enough sleeping – to Mr Nunes’ chagrin), we arrived in beautiful San Francisco. Met by our coach, we travelled to our cosy hotel and had dinner close to the pier that night. On this trip, there was truly no rest for the weary.
We started the next day with a lovely breakfast at the wharf, followed by a fascinating trip to the Computer History Museum. The exhibits were wide-ranging and pioneering, with artifacts including the Engima machine decoded by cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park during WWII, and the first ever Apple computers, masterminded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.
It was a whirlwind tour of computer science, making us feel as if we were only one cog in the wheel of technology. The rest of the day was peaceful: driving through the Golden Gate Park, eating lunch in Alamo Square and visiting Twin Peaks and Lombard Street.
The second day saw us board a ferry to Alcatraz Island. Listening to an award-winning tour guide, we walked in the footsteps of prisoners like Al Capone and the Birdman, felt their distress and the violence of notorious escapes.
In the afternoon, a real highlight of the trip was our cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge. Setting off together felt like a momentous occasion and, although it was tiring, the exhilarating feeling of your legs pumping the pedals, cars whizzing past and the magnificent red arches of the Golden Gate Bridge towering above you made the journey feel like a once in a lifetime experience.
Tuesday saw us step into the shoes of innovators, with an in-depth talk about the algorithms and design that go into airport planning with Bechtel employees, and a tour of Autodesk, one of the world’s leading technology and innovation firms. It was inspiring to know that cars running on natural substances were being thought up by people in our times, and that the CGI of films rely on the computer scientists of today.
In the afternoon, we enjoyed an amazing visit to the Intel Museum. We had a workshop, learning about the importance of algorithms with the fun of Lego! After a tour of the development of the microprocessor, discussing Moore’s Law and the chemistry of computing, we travelled to Palo Alto (coincidentally the birthplace of Steve Jobs) to have a tour of Stanford University. A thriving university in the heart of California, we admired its main quad and memorial church, reminded of the education pioneers who have gone before us in history.
The next day, we were treated to a couple of hours at the Exploratorium. A hands-on museum exploring human interaction and science, we gawked at cow eye dissections, and laughed at funny experiments to do with shadow, colour and light.
The most inspiring event of the day was our visit to TiVo, where a panel of women talked to us about working in the tech industry. It was truly invigorating to see the drive and passion that these women had for technology, and to learn about the impact it had made on their lives.
A trip to the Apple Store at Apple Headquarters and a wander around the Googleplex were a dream for the technology nerds amongst us. We rode Google bikes and breathed in the atmosphere of a place where true innovation was occurring.
The next day, we set off bright and early for Yosemite National Park. After a long coach ride of chatting, games and films, we hiked around the park, basking in the sun and the beauty of the waterfall. After a night in Yosemite, we made our way to Las Vegas, settled into our hotels, and fell fast asleep.
Next was a trip to the glorious Grand Canyon – the wide expanse was enough to make you feel small, but we dared to see how close we could get to the edge! The following day, we experienced the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas. We visited the hotels, walked curiously through casinos, and shopped to our hearts’ content! The evening was jam packed, with a Variety Show making us laugh until our bellies hurt, the Bellagio Fountains and their captivating show (to Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean) captured in video on our phones, and a trip up to the Stratosphere which gave us an awe-inspiring view of the lights of Las Vegas.
The next day, we were experiencing LastDayOfTheTrip-itis as we went to a Las Vegas arcade (for the second time!) and swam in the pool, after stuffing our faces with some breakfast. We packed our bags, some of us donning our blue Computer Science Trip hoodies and travelled back to the airport.
Within 12 hours, we were back in England. The trip was an amazing experience. We got to learn about the importance of technology, boldly ask questions of the leaders of the future, and see two of the most important cities in the United States of America. To put it in computing terms, we got to see the CPU of the technology industry’s computer system – hopefully understanding how we all fit together within an ever-changing landscape of innovation and growth.
Sarah, Year 11