Hi guys! Okay this weekend was pretty much filled with a lot of learning and frustration for me, but lots of fun. I signed myself up for a 3-day technology “camp” in Sacramento called Code for Hood, which is a nonprofit organization that helps students learn more about technology, influencing future engineers and programmers. The first two days were class days where kids could learn more about certain technologies and programs and the third was for competition. Although ultimately I benefitted from the experience, there were many difficulties throughout the weekend and not all of them included technical difficulties.
I am not that great when it comes to technology, because my family owns only one laptop. I thought I was pretty decent at first because the age groups for the competition was 12-17 (but there were some younger kids there as well) and “they couldn’t possibly be super advanced in technology.” Well I was totally wrong.
It was insane. The first class I took was about coding strings on SWIFT, which is actually a relatively easy concept. They advisor asked many questions about the similarities between the different languages of coding and every time the same nine year old would stand up to analyze the similarities including loops, variables, and constants. Not only were the other kids all younger than me, they were all smarter than me! I could not believe it when a kid asked for the password to the computer and the advisor told them to hack it. Three kids were able to hack the computer and log in before they were told the actual password. After that first day and first class I could not believe what I had gotten myself into. I could barely navigate myself around a computer’s files and how to upload upload them.
The second day was filled with surprises as well. I learned using hardware called Arduino, which my dad mentioned was to be used for 3D printing. Most of the day I used that hardware to program games and lights. The other course I took that day was about an old program called Unix, which I didn’t realize was used back in 2006. This program did not include physical folders or files to click on and you had to navigate through a series of codes in its directory. It was very difficult (and boring) but it was a great learning experience of me, mostly learning to be grateful about how much technology has advanced.
My third and final day was creating a game with my group of 5 people (called ourselves Enigma) in the competition. Our group used a program called Blender to animate our main character and it’s environment. I was in charge of creating the character and I had very little experience with 3D modeling in the past, so I had to relearn many things. Our teammates Shi and Abe focused on formatting how the landscape would look, while Ameer created and coded our login screen and website and Breland programmed the game and the movement of the character. We had originally planned to make a first-person online shooter game, but since we only were given four hours to create it, we couldn’t finish it in time. Instead we improvised with what we had already made and created a third-person maze game that was purposefully given glitches to make it harder for the player to navigate. Not only were the pillars too hard for the player to see around, but the player had to rotate the maze to keep track of its player. Every little thing plan out our project was perfect, but presenting to the judges made it harder. Because of an emphasized focus
on the website itself, we were not about to present our maze game to the judges in time and therefore did not place in the competition. The game itself was actually pretty fun despite frustrations that could be compared to those created by games like Flappy Bird.
Even though we did not win in the end, personally I learned a lot about coding and creating 3D models that could probably help me create things on a 3D printer. I also learned how to successfully program a light’s flashing speed without any help- which was probably the biggest highlight of the whole weekend. It also opened my eyes up to a whole new culture of people who study coding and technology in hopes of working for a video game company or something like that in the future. And also the fact that there will always be someone smarter than me no matter what age really hit me in this experience. They were mostly younger than me, ranging from nine to sixteen, and it surprised me the most that the younger kids tended to have a better understanding of the coding language than the older ones. Whenever we had technical issues, a student would volunteer to help fix it and be able to pinpoint the issues. Hopefully I will get to experience this again in the future and pitch my own project to judges with new material.