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I will admit: computer science has not always fascinated me like it does today. As the son of a software engineer, I did not find take-your-child-to-work day particularly appealing. Seeing my father constantly work on the computer had given me a distorted view of what “programming” encompassed: sitting at a computer and typing about on a keyboard. Additionally, my ignorance towards the area had slowly dragged computer science down my list of interests.
Fortunately for me, my prejudice towards computer science did not persist. A turning point of my interests occurred early on in high school: more specifically, during my first encounter with Carnegie Mellon. Science channels were my preferred programs to watch on television as a young student, and PBS’ NOVA became one of my favorite series. One afternoon, in what seemed like a typical episode of NOVA came the birth of my new enthusiasm for computer science. Before me was the airing of “The Great Robot Race.” It was an episode on the DARPA Challenge of 2004 and 2005, and Carnegie Mellon’s Red Team, lead by Dr. William Red Whittaker, was the featured contestant.
Like during all my other viewings of NOVA, my eyes remained glued to the screen during the entire session. The display of robots fascinated me. As the driverless vehicles navigated the terrain, I felt a sense of “spirit” being born into the machines. Each automobile seemed to have developed its own personality of sorts. In such a significant event in history, the Red Team had impressively achieved top three with both its vehicles, H1ghlander and Sandstorm.
The entire episode was inspiring to watch and further bolstered my fascination with creative machines. However, the scene that had struck me the most was that of Red Team’s programmers each “sitting at a computer and typing about on a keyboard.” Immediately I tied the image to my dad at his work. A strong, yet dumbfounding, realization had struck me: software was more than just the familiar Microsoft Windows and Mac O.S., it was the life-water of the robots that have fascinated me all these years. It was what lay at the heart of the machines. By crunching large amounts of zeros and ones, a computer could emulate the behavior of intelligent beings, and that was what excited me the most. Such a realization compelled me to further explore this area, and thus, I took the challenge of directly enrolling in my school’s A.P. Computer Science AB course without prior computer knowledge. This involvement ignited my passion for computer science. Soon, the keyboard was no longer a mere tool of producing text, but a gateway through which I could “teach” a computer the art of problem solving. As I became more and more accustomed with the creative process of programming, I realized how limitless the potentials of software truly are.
Math and logic, my strong points, became an integral part of my work. I learned that as my knowledge evolved, so did the finesse of my programs. Excited by the many possibilities of software, I proceeded to creating many of my own programs outside of school. From my first “Hello World” program to my eventual undefeatable tic-tac-toe A.I., my hunger for creation showed no signs of letting up. Determined to take my education to the next level, I signed up for two essential computer science courses at none other than the school that first inspired me, Carnegie Mellon.
From my six-week life at CMU, I have become very well acquainted with the university, its program, and my two wonderful professors. Because I had only 9 months of programming experience prior to my classes, 15-211 proved to be a very challenging, but equally rewarding, experience, laying a solid foundation for me in this field. The AP/EA program allowed me to experience firsthand the uplifting atmosphere and diverse culture at Carnegie Mellon. The small, beautiful campus accompanied by the dedication and accessibility of faculty members provided an unparalleled learning experience. These six weeks were an important milestone in my life, helping me to strengthen my decision to partake in computer science for a future career and to confirm Carnegie Mellon as my first-choice college.
From NOVA to Pre-College, Carnegie Mellon has held a special place in my heart. The school’s recognition in prestigious events such as the DARPA challenge and future goals in the Google Lunar X-Prize only further excite my ambition to become part of such an amazing team. If given the honor, I will continue my education in Carnegie Mellon’s world-renowned School of Computer Science, focusing in the Robotics Institute Division. To attack the world’s many problems in robotics, working alongside Dr. Whittaker himself, is my ultimate dream. To attend Carnegie Mellon is my catalyst.
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