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My Life as a Wise Guy

wiseguy

So am I a know-it-all, or a member of the Mafia?  You decide…

Ok, putting the self-important title aside, my school just recently started a program called Wise Guy were students can sign up to tutor other students.  I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to give back and help others who may be struggling with understanding content.  Honestly, I can relate to trying to figure out elusive subjects and not completely understanding what was going on.  I recall hours and hours of reading text books, searing the web, and bugging my classmates and professors.  I remember signing up for the standard tutoring sessions through certified tutors, and finding that I was even more confused after the session than before I began it.  I remember opting to stop using the school-provided tutoring because it started to be a waste of time.

Now that I have this opportunity, I want to make better experiences…

We all have those ah-ha moments.  Those times when some previously fuzzy concept, now becomes crystal-clear to us.  I remember finally coming to a point of understanding and recognizing that there were approximately a zillion better different ways that a concept could have been taught. I discovered that simple (to me at least) concepts were presented in ways that were overly complicated.  So, as a tutor, I hope to explain things in a way that removes some of the fuzziness, while providing an environment that people can ask questions and understand that there are no stupid questions [especially when trying to wrap your mind around a complex subject].

At first I did this to give back, but now I see it’s also for me…

Apart from the overall awesome feeling I get when helping others, there’s also a sense of validation for me.  I never seem to give myself credit for all of the hard work I’ve put in over the past 2 years learning to program.  Through tutoring others, I am able to gauge my personal knowledge of a topic, which forces me to stop being so hard on myself. Talk about win-win situation!  Although my goal has been to tutor over the summer while not taking classes, I hope that I am able to carve out some time during the Fall to continue with this amazing opportunity.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2015 in Education

 

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“I want to be a computer nerd, just like you!”

computer nerd, programming, life, coder bug

Sometimes I’m just oblivious…

I have to admit that I often go through life completely oblivious of the impressions and impact that I make on other people.  As I am pursuing a greater education, I am realizing that I am developing a following of younger females in my family.

It all began with my niece getting into graphic art.  Now this may fall into both the art and technology arena, but more than her artistic abilities, I recognized her ability to grasp concepts really quickly.  She has been teaching herself how to use Photoshop, Flash and Illustrator — she began this at 12.  My sister, in full support of her, purchased her a Wacom pen tablet for her 13th birthday which occurred a few weeks ago.  Although I support her goal of wanting to be a cartoonist, I really see her passions developing into areas such as animation or even game development.  She currently loves to make cartoons and small animations of the characters she develops.

She is in the process of applying for a high school that specializes in Game Development and Interactive Media.

Our relationship has grown and developed through random FaceTime conversations where I’ve walked her through a concept that she needed a little more clarification if she couldn’t find the answer online.  I am flattered that she looks to me for help in these areas and through this connection we find ourselves enthralled in our own geeky conversations only to look around and find other family members staring dumbfounded.

But wait! There’s more!

Recently, my goddaughter/great niece confidently informed me that she wants to be a programmer like I am.  Her mom sent me a text saying that my goddaughter has been talking about our programming conversation ever since that day and that she told her that she wants to be a computer nerd just like me.  She has always had an inquisitive mind and her mom informed me that she has the tendency of doing extensive research into things that interest her – such as a full research paper on owls – she’s 10.  She’s recently switched her razor focus from owls to programming.  I recognize the spark in her eyes when she speaks about programming.  I remember having the same experience at the age of 12 when I coded my first web site by hand – html tag by html tag.  Somehow this deep passion went unnoticed and it has taken 10 years for me to get back to that place where I started.  Hopefully, if it’s what she really wants, my goddaughter, instead, will spend the next 10 years developing her talent and deepening her passion for programming.

Engagement begins with an invitation

I never once considered that the young women in my family would be interested in programming.  I feel a new responsibility to help them explore the possibility – at the very least.  As fickle as a child can be, I think that it’s important for me to help explore Computer Science as an option.  There are programs that exist today that help with getting young women interested in STEM fields.  I feel like I can now bridge the gap between their initial interest and tangible resources and programs that will further spark that interest.

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2014 in Programming, STEM

 

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College: When things get tough – Complain

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This kitten is totally unrelated to this post, it just cheers me up… who doesn’t like an adorable kitten?

I’m going to say in advance that I am a tad frustrated while writing this post.  One of my professors just sent out an email to the class acknowledging that some students went to the Computer Science Administration for our school and complained about his assignments.  This professor actually gave us his own crafted assignments that were both challenging and took effort to complete.

It took some substantial planning, on my part, to complete the assignment and I was thrilled to receive 100% — because I truly put in effort.  I say assignment (singular), because the aforementioned students went to the administration only one week into the class.  I enjoyed being able to use the techniques I’ve learned throughout my other classes — I even “whiteboarded” the assignment with sticky notes representing the different elements of my program.  From planning to implementation, I enjoyed the process greatly.  Why?  Because it forced me to think, and to analyze.  I had to come up with ways to implement the requirements of the program while still considering all of the different programming elements I’ve learned so far since beginning this Computer Science degree.

Each of the complicated assignments that I looked forward to, were removed and replaced with the approved curriculum.  So, instead of creating an iterative mock banking system as assignment number one, these students will now be able to: Write a program that inputs 5 numbers and output the average of the 5 numbers and their product.  I almost gave labor to a unicorn when I saw what the original program was replaced with.  Part of me feels as though these complainers robbed me of a challenging experience with this class and I feel really irritated by the fact the school didn’t stand behind the professor.

For me, I asked my professor for copies of his original assignment so that I can work on them in my leisure.  I’m going to secretly judge my classmates for the rest of the semester.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2014 in STEM

 

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Peanut Butter, Jelly and Algorithms: A mini update!

Algorithms

Photo Source

 

What do these three things have in common? Well, it’s what I’m having for breakfast!

It has been about a year…

As time progresses towards to the one year anniversary of me changing everything in my life in order to return to school, all that I can do is count my blessings.  I post about this subject quite a bit, mainly because life changing events tend to have that effect on most people and I am no exception.  One thing that I can say is although my life has not slowed down one bit, it is a different kind of chaos that I live in now.  One that I have complete say in and complete control over.  Which is completely different from the chaos I lived in last year.

What’s happening?…

Well, Fall Semester started almost 7 weeks ago and I am getting into the Graphic Design portion of my classes, but I also am taking an Algorithms class.  One thing that I have learned is that Algorithms have completely mesmerized me and have taken over my brain cells.  So much so, that I wonder why I am just learning Algorithms when I’ve taken quite a bit of programming classes so far.  I believe that this class would have helped me with each programming class that I’ve taken so far since I’ve returned to school.  Some of the concepts have been interesting with me attempting to wrap my mind around them, but for the most part they all make since.  Although I’m taking 3 other classes, my life has slowly began to evolve around Algorithms and getting a sound understanding of them.

PB&J and Algorithms… 

As I stated earlier, my breakfast this morning was interesting, mainly because I woke up thinking about a basic Algorithm that we learned during the first week of class.  Being pretty early in the course, we were discussing Union Finds and the difference between the different methods.  I was interested in the relationship between the different methods.  While reading the material, I remember having difficulty with simply identifying the results of certain unions.  I wasn’t able to answer the questions until I mapped them out for myself on a piece a paper and using a highlighter.  At the time, I felt silly, but thinking back, it was a visual way of helping me understand the concept.  What had me up early this morning thinking about Algorithms was the different ways to analyze situations in order to develop an algorithm to suit the situation.  Really, as simple as this concept is, it really opened my eyes to how I’ve thought in the past.  I have ALWAYS been a person that hate doing repetitive things.  I usually try to find a way to make a process easier and automated if possible.  I was the person creating spreadsheets with formulas because I could see the time saved once the work was done.

The last revelation I’ve had of this magnitude was during my Probably and Analysis class during my very first semester.  We had to write a list of everything we did each day, the more detailed the better.  For example, instead of listing “I woke up”, we listed “I took a breath, I opened my eyes, I lifted my arm”… etc.  You can see how tedious a list like this could be.  Well, this was my professor’s way of explaining the different programming paradigms and the differences between languages that are closer to machine language and the ones that are more high level.  All explanations of different languages have led me back to that visual assignment and have helped me to digest concepts better.

Since this is an update… 

I’m excited to announce that I am still on the Dean’s list and I still have a 4.0!  I was afraid that once I had gotten into more difficult topics that it would be tougher to maintain my grades.  I still have a bit to go but I am getting more comfortable and learning more and more each day.  One thing I do have to say is that I learn a lot on my own.  I read so much and practice much more than is required.  This is for my own benefit, I don’t want to get to the point that I am not constantly learning something new.  I also want to learn in tandem with what my classes are teaching me.  I still use YouTube as a great scholarly resource 🙂

I am still taking supplemental MOOC‘s to make sure that my learning is well-rounded.  These have been tremendously beneficial and the options available have also grown.

As always, I am excited about what the future will bring, and I am happy of my new addiction: Algorithms… 🙂

 

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2014 in Programming

 

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My Attempt to Redefine Productivity =^.^=

My Attempt to Redefine Productivity =^.^=

IMG_3521-0.JPG

I’m not in Kansas anymore…

As time goes on within my studies, I’m realizing that my typical way of learning is getting me frustrated. In the past, I’ve been able to learn new things quickly and get to the point where I can teach others. In my management days, I’ve been in situations where I was thrown in the deep end to see if I would sink or swim. I’ve always worked best under pressure and in uncomfortable environments.

Recently, learning in the way that I’m accustomed to learning has led me to rabbit holes of possibly useful but mostly irrelevant learning. I know that I want to learn above and beyond my school’s curriculum but often times my learning translates to a wasted afternoon of vision-less research. I’ll start my day out with a plan on what I’ll learn and practice, but then there’s some topic I didn’t consider. Sometimes there’s a bug with the OS I’m using. Or there’s a concept that will help make the topic I’m learning much more clear.

Is that time really wasted?…

Probably not. But sometimes it does feel as though I’m spinning my wheels. Ultimately I know much more than I did last year. I also understand that I learn more every single day. Most days however, I think I need to play catch up because I think I’m so far behind. Behind what? Who? I’m not sure entirely. Here’s where my learning style can be problematic lol. There’s SO much information. I turn into a kid in a candy store. Utterly fascinated by the smallest bits of information and shamelessly celebrating “Ah Ha” (or “Duh”) moments. I can spend an entire day practicing writing code. Or I can spend it reading about different programming paradigms. I can get lost for hours digging through open source code or daydreaming of a program I’d like to write just for my personal use.

What’s bothering me is my inability to quantify the time I’m spending. Days can go by and I don’t have a tangible idea of what I’ve learned. I’m also not 100% sure that I want to measure my time spent. But I do want to have something to show for my endless hours of pondering.

An unexpected kick in the teeth…

A completely unrelated situation lead to a revelation of how my thought process works.  Someone offended me pretty badly recently and I realized that I let it get to me. I’m convinced that the person was mostly clueless that their words had an effect on me. Because of this fact, I had no where to direct my anger. Do I think they are a bad person? No. The result of this conversation led to me second guessing myself. So much so that I began to question my every move and my time spent.

I know that there will always be people in life to challenge our resolve. It’s how life is. What I am taking away from this situation is that other people’s opinion of me cannot add nor subtract from my value.  If they are too closed minded to recognize my value, then that is their loss and of no concern of mine.  All I can do in life is be authentic and strive to be the best me, each and every day.

A conclusion?  I think so…

Each of these experiences have all concentrated into one single point of understanding that “Excellence is a habit”.  Who cares if I spend random hours of pondering different topics if while at the same time I’m maintaining the 4.0 that I sought after?  Who cares what some small minded person thinks about me when I am the one who knows exactly what she wants in life and is not afraid to pursue it?  Excellence is relative to our current situations, are we being the best that we can be?  Excellent!

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2014 in Programming, Uncategorized

 

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Math and Game Design

lovemath

 

Photo Credit

My epic quest to encounter more math…

Math, really?  Yes! I have come to the point in my studies that I feel the need to brush up on my math skills.  I have been reading many resources and on multiple occasions I have discovered that a pitfall some may succumb to is not taking enough math when pursuing a degree in Computer Science.  Apart from this research, many of the books I’ve been reading mention that although an extensive background in math is not necessarily a requirement, it helps.  Some of these resources even add that the better programmers have backgrounds in Mathematics as well.

Well, that’s fine and dandy but what now?

I am in the situation where I have fulfilled the Math requirement for my degree, but I took these classes over 10 years ago (oh boy I feel old).  In addition to this, my double major is already getting a bit pricey so I do not want to take any additional credits that won’t go directly to my degree requirement.  My solution? MIT Open Courseware…

What is MIT Open Courseware exactly? 

A few posts ago, I wrote about MOOCS, massive online open courses.  MIT makes a huge chunk of their courses available, and many of them have assessments, audio/video lectures, and final exams so that you can test yourself on concepts and retention.  Although you do not receive credit for taking the courses, who can put a price on gaining knowledge? For me, it is not about receiving credit, it is about brushing up on concepts and developing a mental muscle that will ultimately make me a better programmer in the long run.

What classes will you take?

Here’s the thing… lol.  I have this thing where I am a learning junky.  I am that girl that can not sleep because she has to read one more chapter of that coding book (like last night).  I am saying this because once I started researching which classes I want to take, my list grew from about 3 or 4 courses and now it’s at 23 lol.  Just to put that into perspective, the number of classes required to get a full 4 year MIT degree is about 35-36 courses.

Once I started browsing, I said to myself, “Self, why not learn a bit more while you are at it?”.  Why limit myself to just learning some Math, why not see what all of the hype is about?  What started as supplementing my learning with Math, turned into supplementing my learning in general.  The mentality behind my decisions were to choose courses that I:

1) know I will need some extra practice with.  In these situations, I am already taking the equivalent at my University, but I want to take the MIT OCW version to solidify my learning.

2) fit the requirements of MIT students.  I took a look at the Math requirements for a Software Engineering degree at MIT and found most of the equivalent classes. I also added a few courses that interest me in general and have nothing to do with any particular structure.

Yeah, but the courses?

Here are the courses that I came up with.  Remember this was catered to me specifically based on my interests, the classes that I’m taking at University, and the requirements of a MIT Software Engineering degree.

Ok here they are (in no particular order):

  • Intro to Computer Science and Programming
  • Computation Structures
  • Elements of Software Construction
  • Introduction to Algorithms
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Language Engineering
  • Probabilistic Systems Analysis
  • Mathematics for Computer Science
  • Design and Analysis of Algorithms
  • Practical Programming in C
  • Intro to C Memory Management & C++ OOP
  • Effective Programming in C and C++
  • Physics I
  • Physics II
  • Calculus I
  • Calculus II
  • Differential Equations
  • Linear Algebra
  • Computational Methods of Scientific Programming
  • Logic I
  • Modal Logic
  • Decisions, Games and Rational Choice

Um… that’s a lot…

Welp, it is, especially in addition to work, a full time school schedule, and a game dev internship.  From now until I get my masters, I have quite a few years, so I will use these resources to supplement my learning on a more structured bases.  Right now, I already use MOOCs to supplement my learning, but now I will approach it from a different angle.  Instead of looking for materials to help me with the classes I’m taking, I will use MOOCs to help me learn tangential topics that will help me in the long run.  I believe it’s a win-win in my opinion.

Mmmmm Yummy Math… 

All in all, I’m extremely excited about this new adventure.  I have always believed that knowledge is power and MIT OCW is just another tool to gain knowledge with a bit of a challenge added to it!

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2014 in Programming

 

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Learning Relational Databases – Summer Fun =^.^=

Programmer Problems

 

Ooops, I dropped a course… 

In January, I was having serious issues with a class, Relational Databases.  I felt completely lost in the class, not necessarily because of the content, but because of the learning environment.  Reading about databases just was not cutting it and although I resorted to YouTube videos for supplemental learning, my professor’s requirements were unique.  I could understand the supplemental information that I found, but I could not correlate it to my professor’s teaching style.  When I asked for additional help, the language barrier left me even more confused.  So, reluctantly I decided to drop the class.  I’m saying all of this to say… I can run but I can’t hide.

Welcome to the summer session of Relational Databases… 

The first two weeks of this class has shown me two things 1) I wasn’t going crazy in January when I took RD the first time 2) I’ll learn all about relational databases after all.  The one thing that really stood out to me was the different ways to notate data models, which can seem confusing but was actually great for I could choose the style that I felt most comfortable with.  Although I would rather be doing more summery things, I am actually enjoying learning about relational databases — does that make me a nerd?

Just in case I’m not the only one in this boat… 

I have found a few supplemental educational tools to help me with understanding Relational databases, so I will share them here!

1) A friend and fellow blogger suggested the Manga Guide to Databases.  This resource has been a great tool in understanding the concepts of databases, while enjoying a really awesome story with subtle-but-funny references to database history.  This guide has helped me to stop STRESSING over learning and enjoy a story in the process.  I’d suggest this reference to any manga lover that also has to learn about databases lol.

2) YouTube!  Yes, YouTube is a distance learner’s best friend.  Reading is great, but having a visual aid helps in learning.  There’s also the added benefit of learning through different perspectives which helps tremendously.  I’ve found one channel of a professor that has all of his lectures for his Relational Databases course available in one handy playlist.  His teaching style is really laid back, however he explains the concepts in a way that’s truly understandable.

3) I stumbled upon a site that has practice examples for the different concepts of databases such as entity relationships and normalization.  The tutorials are straightforward, but the most beneficial is the practice problems.

I’m learning, and it’s awesome… 

I never thought that learning about databases would be interesting, but once I understood all of the areas that databases impact – I realized the importance of knowing all I can about them.  I shall continue to learn!

 

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2014 in Programming

 

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