Do you remember what you did the summer before you started the 9th grade? It’s a bit hazy for me, but it probably involved a lot of whiffle ball, riding bikes, and going to the beach with my friends. I’m sure I had loads of fun, but would I call it a productive use of time? Well, maybe not.
Meet Stephen B., age 14. Stephen recently graduated from Joyce Kilmer Middle School in Trenton, New Jersey. He’s had a much more productive summer than I did at his age. Stephen has had a lot of fun this summer, but he did so as an intern for Bloomberg Princeton R&D.
You might be asking, how is it possible that a 14 year old could keep up, and even contribute, to a software engineering team where most people have many years of experience (not to mention high school, undergraduate and post graduate degrees!)? Well, the answer is that Stephen is incredibly intelligent, and a pretty amazing person.
I had a chance to sit down with Stephen a few times, and he was kind enough to provide some insight as to what makes him tick, and where he sees himself headed in the future.
Q: How did you get started in computer programming?
A: There’s this animation program called Blender, I was new to the 3D animating community, and at the time I really didn’t know what computer programming was and how to do it. That was until I found this tab in Blender that said Python. I didn’t know how it was used in Blender and that it was a programming language. Then some people from Bloomberg visited my school and I remember we were talking about fractals. There was also a video about it and I remember one part in particular, it was about how 3D artists use the fractal method to make a better animation. Somehow Raspberry PI came up in the conversation. I knew what it was because during my 4 years of experience with electronics and circuits I had already found out about it, and at the time I really wanted one. At the end of their presentation, I forget who, but he recommended me to go to Codecademy.com to learn more about programming. I did go to the website, and the second course I took was Python because I saw that name in Blender. That’s when I started saving tutorials and coding channels.
Q: Can you describe the project you worked on this summer?
A: The project we worked on was a desk locator app. It searches for desks that are not being used by anyone, so that if someone entered into a new(BLOOMBERG!) office they’d be able to find an available desk to work at instead of wandering around like a lost puppy.
Q: How was your experience with the Bloomberg team? Were they supportive? Encouraging?
A: The team was AWESOME! They were very helpful, supportive, and encouraging. They did what most teachers couldn’t do, so yeah I had an amazing time working with my AWESOME team.
Q: What’s next on your learning list? Any languages you want to focus on or specific areas of software development?
A: I do want to learn Japanese. I also want to make a video game, one on IOS or MAC and one on PC. I also want to build my own operating system.
Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to students that might be interested in learning more about technology or software development?
A: I’d tell them, “Society needs computer programmers, so if you become a programmer there’s already high demand for you”. Also, “You don’t have to be smart to program a computer”.