Steve Harper

Professor - Computer Science

sharper.jpgSteve Harper’s main interests are databases and programming. He periodically revises his custom database software that the International Mathematical Contest in Modeling has been using since 1996. (Also used by the Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling and the High School Modeling contest)

He started out in private business writing a Montana income tax package for CPAs, but quickly moved on to working with databases for non-profit groups and finally on to teaching.

Probably because of his background, Steve loves to teach project classes for database and for Java. The project classes vary, depending on student interest, from free databases to smart phones.

For variety, he has become National Champion in his age group in the 20 K and 50 K Racewalk (with one unofficial world record), has spent a few summers working at NASA, loves to travel abroad with his family, and teaches (along with 12 other professors) Perspectives on Gender. 

He is former chair of the Department of Mathematics, Engineering and Computer Science and former chair of the Carroll College Faculty Assembly.

Teaching Philosophy

einstein_on_bicycleLearning is like riding a bicycle. It may be helpful to memorize the names of the parts, but you never learn to ride until you get on and try it.

I learn by doing. That’s how I experience our computer world. Merely reading or hearing about a computer topic doesn’t always translate directly into knowledge. So that is my approach to learning. Learn a few of the basics (like where the brakes are). Then try it out. Then go learn some more. (That’s why most of our CS classes have a lab component.) You may have a skill, like braking, but do you know WHEN to use it?

When you get far enough, you will have a need to know more, like how to fix a flat tire. It is nice to be shown how to fix a flat tire. But you are really ready to pay attention when you are staring at your own flat tire on your own bike and have a real need to know how to fix a flat tire NOW. (That’s why most of my classes have a project that let you ride far enough to get into trouble.)

I consider myself to be a guide. (I’ve guided my family to South Africa, Belize, Costa Rica and NASA.) A good guide will help you avoid the really devastating 300-foot falls. But you still have to walk the trail yourself. If you are interested in the computer path, come join us.