2016 Stanford Summer Camp: Robot Programming
I am thankful for the opportunity to spend the past three weeks as part of Stanford’s Precollegiate 2016 Summer Program. Stanford provides different courses for students to apply for and of course, I chose robot programming because of my fascination for artificial intelligence interacting in the real world. During the program, I experienced a taste of what it was like to be a student and walk through the hallways of the Main Quad to class every morning. I experienced what it was like to hangout with friends everyday in a dorm environment which was completely different from the traditional meetup at school routine that I was used to.
The daily schedule usually looked like this:
Monday — Friday
12:30pm Lab Project
4:00pm Fun Stuff
6:00pm Dinner + Free Time
9:30pm House Meeting
11:00pm Lights out
Saturdays: Field Trips to Capitola beach and the Cal Academy of Sciences
The schedule provided a good balance between study and social time as a big chunk of time is allocated for interacting with other students. Interestingly enough, Stanford put all of the high school students into frat houses that served as dorms and a home for students and counselors.
David Zhu, the professor for the programming class, led us through an introductory class for robot programming over the short span of a couple of weeks. David covered topics from basic robot control to search and planing algorithms such as Dijkstra’s and BFS and DFS. After learning about the topics in class, he assigned us lab work to implement the concepts through code which was a much harder task to accomplish. The biggest lesson I took away from the class is to always debug code thoroughly before writing additional lines otherwise there will be lots of pain and suffering.
Although I attended the camp for Robot Programming, I did not solely learn about programming robots. I could have learned the same knowledge through only MOOCS and tutorials at home instead of attending a three summer camp. The real experience was getting to know the people at the camp. The students and counselors were all very knowledgeable about the course topics and were very forward looking motivated individuals which were not a common traits to see in the typical high school student.
Here are some lessons I learned from being part of the camp:
1. College Admissions are not solely focused on academics
This may seem like common knowledge to all high school students but there is more to it than you would think. A big reason academics isn’t the only deciding factor in college admissions is that not all students receive the same opportunities as others. Many of the students attending the camp did not take many AP classes as their schools did not offer or regulated the amount of AP classes they could take. As a result, they can never compete with the students who will have completed 15 AP classes by the end of their high school career. I guess I should sit in the corner and think about my life choices as I have signed up for a 7 AP class load next year. So, in broader words, GPA is not a international assessment for academic achievement due to the inconsistency of education offered to students.
Similarly, extracurricular activities factor in as well. Many of the counselors advised to stay passionate about something and to make that unique about your self.
2. Predicting the future seems impossible
Making plans for the future seems like a impossible task as things just never go as planned. Many of the counselors who were admitted into Stanford, Yale, and Brown never really expected to make it in. But, had their plans changed completely by being admitted into Stanford. During the program, Down to Lunch, a startup app for planning meetups with friends, setup a presentation to inspire students about entrepreneurship. One key topic is that they never expected their app to be used by so many people. Now, they are working on making their app the next Snapchat or Facebook.
3. Find your pack
While I was at the camp, I found it oddly easy to relate to and get to know other students in my dorms. We all were interested in the same things which made conversations flow smoothly and group activities more enjoyable. We had similar lifestyles even though we did so many different things in our free time as our are goals aligned but our paths are not the same. It was an enjoyable time when I really had the feeling that everybody belonged in the group to form a positive environment for people to achieve their goals and grow.
The three weeks at Stanford included some of the most memorable experiences in my life. Fountain hopping with friends, programming robots, and hanging out with the counselors changed the way I see the world. I can’t wait to discover what the future holds.