Creative Code Project

During my first semester at Ohio State, I took a Fundamentals of Engineering course. In this course, students are assigned to a group of four people that they work with throughout the semester to complete various assignments. After learning MATLAB and the engineering design process, each group was tasked with creating their own MATLAB game. Most groups created one main game with one to two separate mini games to satisfy all the project requirements. My group, however, decided to create one game with two mini games integrated into the main game.

Although integrating all of the games into one was not going to be an easy task, my team was determined to complete this challenge. We had to not only program the entire game, but we also had to document our progress on a project website. My team quickly decided that the best way to complete this assignment was to assign each person a specific portion of the game that they would be the “expert” on. The person assigned to a specific portion would be responsible for coding and documenting that portion of the game.

I had never worked with four people to complete a coding project before, but this project helped me see the value in delegating tasks. Creating the game would have been much more challenging if we tried to write all of the code together. Dividing the tasks and having an expert in every area of the game made it much easier to discuss the project as a group. Whenever something was not working properly, we knew exactly who we needed to ask about how to fix it. We were also able to monitor our progress more efficiently since we could easily tell who had done their work and who hadn’t.

After all of our hard work, my team finally had a finished MATLAB game at the end of the semester. The game, called Adventure Awaits, was an adventure game in which players navigated through various dungeons and earned XP to defeat monsters. After a player successfully made it through a dungeon, they would be able to play a mini game, War or Sevens, to gamble their XP for future levels. To better understand our game, watch the video my team made advertising our game.

When reflecting about the game my team made, there are various ways in which the game could be improved. For example, the graphics could be improved and the monsters could move instead of remaining stationary. Despite these areas that could be improved, this project helped me understand the importance of trust when working in a group as well as the need for delegating tasks. I look forward to applying these skills to various other coding projects in the future.

 

First Hack OHI/O

Last weekend, October 27 and 28, I participated in my first Hack OHI/O Hackathon. Before coming to Ohio State, I had attended hackathons before. However, I had never attended a 24-hour, non-stop hacking competition. When I first learned about this event, I was intimidated; how could a freshman with minimal college experience be able to compete against older, more talented students? I spoke with several students and teachers before the event, and they all recommended participating in the event simply for the experience of teaching myself a new skill. I did not truly understand how I could benefit from such an informal learning environment until I was at the hackathon.

At the hackathon, I was surround by over 700 students who all had the same goal: create something amazing. Everyone interpreted this prompt in various ways, and projects ranged from robotics and virtual reality to software apps and websites. For me, the first few hours of the hackathon were spent trying to figure out what to make and how to make it. My partner, Avery Warner, and I both had different programming backgrounds. I had only ever worked with Java, and Avery had worked with R. For our project, we wanted to create something that would help better inform individuals about natural disasters, specifically hurricanes, in their area. We decided to create an easy to use application that allows individuals to see the path of past hurricanes, their wind speed, and their category classification. Since R is used to tidy data and create clear data visualizations, we used R to create an RShiny application.

Although Avery had worked with R before to tidy data, he had never used R to create an RShiny app. I learned quite a bit about tidying data from Avery, and we both learned a lot about making RShiny apps together with the help of Google. Throughout the process of creating the app, it was very easy to become discouraged when concepts became harder to understand. However frustrating the application became, I was able to learn a valuable lesson: anyone is able to learn a new skill if they are willing to try. I never really considered, or appreciated, how much information is at our fingertips thanks to the internet. This hackathon helped me realize that no one knows how to do everything, but being able to teach oneself new concepts and adapt to new environments is a skill that is often underappreciated.

The application that Avery and I built, called IMPACT: Hurricane,  is far from perfect, but it was the first step to improving my ability to learn new skills without formal instruction. I am very grateful for the experience that Hack OHI/O provided me with, and I look forward to improving IMPACT: Hurricane as well as teaching myself new skills in the future.


A screenshot from the IMPACT: Hurricane application created during the hackathon

My AspireIT Program

During my senior year of high school, I won an Aspirations in Computing Award from the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT). Winning this award not only introduced me to a supportive community of women in computing, but it also provided me with a $3,000 grant  to lead an AspireIT program. An AspireIT program’s main goal is to encourage K-12 girls to explore technology and pursue their technological interests. I was very excited to lead an AspireIT program and share my passion for technology with others, however leading such a program requires leadership, communication, and various other skills.

I spent the majority of summer 2018 planning, organizing, and budgeting in preparation for my program in August 2018. My program, called “IT & Me: Pathway Exploration,” exposed twenty-two 7th, 8th, and 9th grade girls to programming and engineering concepts over the course of three eight-hour days. I planned a field trip to COSI, catering for breakfast and lunch every day of the program, a 3-D birdhouse design challenge, and a BOE-Bot robot competition. Although organizing this program was no easy task, the real challenge was implementing the program.

Throughout my program, several events occurred that required me to improvise and quickly decide on the best course of action. On the second day of my program, a student that had not registered for my program showed up to participate. On the third day, the restaurant I had placed a lunch order with accidentally discarded my order without making any of the food. Both of these situations required me to act quickly as the program leader and decide what to do moving forward. These situations were some of the first times in my life that I was forced to make a decision quickly with immediate repercussions. It was also one of the first times that the decision I made was completely my own. I did not have anyone guiding me on what to do; I had to choose what was best for my program.

Overall, leading an AspireIT program helped me improve my leadership, organization, budgeting, and decision making skills. Very few 18-year-olds can say they have managed a $3,000 budget and taught a class of twenty-two students. I cherish my experience as an AspireIT leader not only for the lessons I learned while leading such a program, but also for the impact I was able to make on young girls’ lives. I exposed multiple girls to the power of technology, and several of my participants decided to enroll in technology courses in school as a result of attending my program. I will never forget the excited looks on each girl’s face as they ran their first computer program, and I look forward to the next opportunity I have to share my passion for technology with others.