Seventeen-Year-Old Amy Wang Sees a Bright Future in STEM

Amy Wang is a puzzle solver; it’s an interest that led her to the field of computer science. Wang is the recipient of a scholarship from Tundra’s Launchpad Project, which awards young women who are making steps towards STEM careers. The seventeen-year-old is heading to Waterloo this fall to study computer science.

We chatted with her about coding, receiving the award, and charting out her future.

SDTC: What drew you to the computer sciences? What fascinates you about this field?

AW: All throughout my high school computer science classes, I enjoyed using code to solve a problem so the thinking, and the problem-solving aspects of coding are what drew me to the field. I thought of these problems as puzzles that needed different pieces of code in order to solve them, and I liked being able to come up with different ideas and try different approaches with code.

In general, I enjoy trying to solve any puzzles that I encounter, and in the future, computer science will present me with even more puzzles and problems for me to think through and try out. As for how it fascinates me, I was always amazed by how code works as its own language and how mere words, brackets, commas, and semicolons could create entire games and other fully functional programs.

Back in Grade 10 when I first began to code, I couldn’t believe how it all worked together to display images, take in user input, and control what the user could do on screen. To this day, code continues to fascinate me.

When did you realize you wanted to make this your focus?

When I first entered high school, I did consider a few science careers and a few other careers, but at the time, I had absolutely no idea as to what exactly I wanted to study in the future. I thought about studying finance, law, or possibly life sciences, and it was only until Grade 11 when I realized that computer science was a field that I was capable of diving into and exploring.

I took the Grade 10 computer science course and I really enjoyed it but I still never thought about pursuing a career in the field. Then, during the Grade 11 course, I had an incredible teacher who opened my eyes to computer science and I found that it interested and fascinated me. After being inspired by my teacher, I focused on STEM in my ultimate career path.

What does a typical day look like for you?

During the summer, I don’t really have a typical structured day, but I do have typical days in high school. After getting up and walking to school, I head to my locker and talk with my friends before going to my first period class. Later, during lunch, I always enjoy spending time with my friends at our usual lunch meeting spot and I sometimes work on any homework or projects that I have. After my last two classes, I may have a club meeting that day so I attend the meeting before heading home. Then, I start working on my homework and projects, take a bit of time to do a hobby, eat dinner, continue with schoolwork, and go to bed.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Moving schools. This happened years ago but I still remember how challenging it was for me. During Grade 6, I moved to a new neighbourhood and attended a new school only to be transferred to another new school for Grade 7. In a short period of time, I was the new kid twice. As an eleven-year-old, it was hard to leave behind the friends I made, and it was difficult to make new friends without having a long past with them, along with adjusting to a completely different place. But, I got through changing schools by stepping out of my comfort zone and meeting and talking with new people.

Any plans for the rest of the summer?

Very soon, I’m going to Quebec City and looking around Old Quebec, which I’m very excited about. Then, I will be flying to Disney World, which will be my first ever time there, and I’m looking forward to going on as many rides as I can! For the rest of the summer, I plan on spending time with friends and family before leaving for university.

What’s your motto at the moment?

“Carpe diem.” I can easily feel stressed out and anxious over many things in my life but I try to remind myself to make the most of my days and to enjoy moments while they last, rather than letting the smaller and more insignificant things get in the way. Time passes by quickly. so I want to spend my days making fun memories and cherishing all the times when I feel happy and free, which are the times that truly matter.

Best (and worst) advice you’ve received?

The best piece of advice that I’ve heard is to be the person you needed when you were younger. It resonated with me for a long time after hearing it. It made me think back to the times when I was a kid and needed some help along with someone trusting who I could talk to and know that they would understand me. So, I follow this advice while knowing how much it would mean to my younger self. I think it’s a powerful piece of advice that brings out the best in people and allows them to reflect on their past.

On the other hand, the worst piece of advice I received was to not spend too much time reading fiction novels because they’re not useful or beneficial. I strongly disagree with this as someone who loves reading fiction novels. I know that as long as I find happiness, comfort, and enjoyment from reading about a completely different world and interesting characters with advice and life lessons to give, they’re not useless at all.

What does receiving this scholarship mean to you?

Receiving this scholarship means so much to me and not just for funding my education. Personally, it means that I’ve come a long way and I’ve accomplished more than I ever thought I could. Years ago, I wasn’t even fully aware of the STEM acronym and I would’ve never believed that I’d be capable of winning a women in STEM scholarship. But over time, I explored more in computer science and gained the knowledge and skills that I needed to apply for it, as well as building up a passion for a field in STEM. I’m very grateful for the scholarship and I can’t thank Tundra Technical enough.

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