Mei’lani Eyre: Rhythmic Gamer & Teacher Who Codes

“I really liked video games growing up, especially dance and rhythm games. Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero and Just Dance were my favorites. It doesn’t come as any huge surprise though, given that I was really big into musical theater and acting for the majority of my life. So really, rhythm and dance games just combined two of my biggest interests into one.” — Mei’lani Eyre

Meet Mei’lani Eyre, one of our Teachers Who Codes. Mei’lani joined the Girls Who Code movement a year ago as a student in the Summer Immersion Program. She’s paying it forward as a Teaching Assistant this summer. As a musical theater performer for most of her life, Mei’lani’s favorite technology are rhythmic games like Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero and Just Dance. Who doesn’t love those games?

Learn more about how code ties into Mei’lani’s passions and some of her other favorite rhythmic games in our Q&A below!

Q&A with Mei’lani:

What was your dream job growing up?

When I was 4 or 5, I always dreamt of being an actress. I carried on trying to support this dream until around the age of 11, when I found that I didn’t quite have the passion or drive to become an actress. It was something that I found really didn’t suit me as a person, and I started thinking about the things I really like and enjoy doing.

What’s your dream job now?

Computers are something I really enjoy, and can totally see myself working with for a career.

Were you always interested in computers?

They were always a big part of my life growing up, and I started to grow more curious about how they work around the age of 10. I loved using the internet, different computer programs, and learning; so I started learning to program around the age of 11 or 12. Once 13 hit, I started seriously considering computer science as my career path. By the age of 14, I had applied for Girls Who Code. A year later, I’m a TA for them!

What were some of your other interests growing up?

I really liked video games growing up, especially dance and rhythm games. Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero, and Just Dance are my favorites. It doesn’t come as any huge surprise though, given that I was really into musical theater and acting for the majority of my life. So really, rhythm and dance games just combine two of my biggest interests into one.

What made you join the Girls Who Code movement?

After two years of learning with no general direction in the field, I finally found the motivation and confidence to start building my future. For me, the first step in this was joining Girls Who Code. My mom’s co-worker had suggested it a while ago, and I dismissed it thinking that I didn’t meet the criteria. But once applications for the Summer Immersion Program opened up, I looked over it again and realized that I was completely eligible to apply. So I did, and I have ZERO regrets about that decision. This summer, I’m going to be a Teaching assistant and help inspire more girls to code!

What’s your favorite piece of technology?

I absolutely love arcade game machines. I think they’re a great piece of technology that have continued to grow and adapt despite the competition of console and PC gaming and they still manage to maintain a relevant status in the gaming world.

Which of your recently used emojis represents you perfectly?

Open mouthed smiley faces! :D

Is coding creative? How?

It’s totally creative! When you’re coding, you’re unlocking your inner MacGyver. You’re solving problems in unconventional ways, with strange tools and a ton of knowledge.

For example: At Girls Who Code, my team and I for our final project during the Summer Immersion Program wanted to help people with anxiety through the power of digitally coded narwhals. Those may seem like two incredibly unrelated topics, but how else would we bring them all together in harmony without a little creativity?

What was the hardest part of learning to code?

Learning how to accept mistakes. I had this idea in my head that I was supposed to know the answer to everything and never make mistakes- because that’s how programmers are, right? Not at all!

Coding is FULL of mistakes! No matter what amount of experience you have, you’re bound to mess up here and there. And the magnitude of these mistakes vary every time. I made a lot of mistakes when I was first learning, and that really drove me away from wanting to continue on for the longest time. I didn’t think I was cut out for programming because I wasn’t smart enough. Because I couldn’t figure out some of the simplest bugs on my own. I didn’t understand that this was something that even the most seasoned programmers go through, it’s just a part of the work.

Now that I understand this, I don’t let myself get discouraged. In fact, I love the feeling you get when you finally fix a bug that’s been frustrating you for longest time. It’s not that I like having bugs in my code, it’s that I love knowing I fixed them.

So, coding has made you more confident?

Coding has made me feel more confident through the fact that I’m actually making something. I can’t draw or paint very well, and I’m not very good at writing stories or music. I’ve never thought I’m good at creating, well, anything. And I’ve never really liked anything that I’ve made.

However, coding has most definitely changed that. I like the programs I make. I’m building something from the bottom up, by myself. Through code, I’ve proven to myself that I’m capable of more than I thought.

Tell us about a time you overcame failure.

Sometime in fall of 2015 I was looking for research projects to be apart of. I know a lot of high school students go and do college research at different universities, so I tried contacting a professor at a local university about one of his projects that really interested me. Because of my few options, I really had my heart set on working with him.

After maybe 4 days of anxious waiting I finally got an email back from him. We went back and fourth exchanging more information each time. Eventually he decided I wasn’t right for this project. However, he didn’t leave me with just that. He told me I was ambitious, and that I should continue to create my own luck to find opportunities that were the right fits for me.

That little piece of advice has stayed with me, as I’ve applied this every time since then where I’ve received a rejection letter from something I had my hopes set on. It reminded me to keep trying and to continue to push through, a thought process which has helped me overcome the many failures and rejections that followed after that event, but led to more successes than before.

How does code tie to your other passions?

I’m a brown belt in karate, and I’ve been an assistant instructor for a kids karate class for the past two years. Karate has been a huge part of my life for the past 4 years, and a lot of my motivation to be in the field of computer science comes from the adults that I’ve met there who are in the CS field.

I’m also an avid rhythm gamer. I may not be well vested in the field of gaming as a whole, but I do have quite a bit of knowledge and passion when it comes to rhythm games. I’m talking Dance Dance Revolution, and super obscure games that most people likely haven’t heard of like Pump it Up, Stepmania, Osu!, and Pop’N. I love going to arcades and just seeing what they have in terms of rhythm games. I will spend a solid hour playing between two machines at an arcade if that’s all they have.

Who is your role model?

My karate instructor.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received from your role model?

“Don’t hold yourself back”

What do you say to the girl that thinks that coding is not for her?

Coding doesn’t require you to be a genius the moment you start. It’s a learning process, and you get better as you go. Besides that, it’s not limited to just writing games and word processing software. You can combine code with just about anything that exists. Whatever interest you have in life, technology can come into play.

Where should girls who are interested in coding begin, what’s the best way to get started and to stick with it?

Step 1: Find an online tutorial that teaches you the basics of code. Khan Academy and Codecademy are great places for beginners to start.

Step 2: Make friends with people who are in the field. Or even just college students who major in CS. After you’ve been coding a while, you will reach an intermediate level where you’ve done every tutorial possible to learn the basics. But if you’re anything like me, you’re going to need help applying this knowledge to different scenarios. That’s when friends with more experience than you come in. They’re not only great for introducing you to new things, but they’re great resources for when you’re stuck and you need help along the way.

Step 3: Profit

Though in all seriousness, learning the bare basics is super helpful and the most important step in beginning to code, but once you’re beyond that point it’s confusing to know where to go next.

Having friends in the field or with knowledge of where to go next is incredibly helpful with this problem! Or really, any group that’s similar. Finding a group like Girls Who Code, ChickTech, or something related that aids you in expanding your horizons can definitely grow your knowledge and make you want to stick with coding.

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Interested in being a teacher for Girls Who Code? Check out our Volunteer page to see how you can get involved!