Elaine Yang, High School Student & Founder: Bringing an An Artistic Approach To Coding

This 18 Year Old is Teaching Code Through Music and Graphic Design

Elaine Yang, Codette Founder, High School Student

On a typical afternoon, Elaine Yang is on Tumblr, interacting with the thousands of fans she has amassed on her graphic design blog. Or she is coding a new chatbot. “I have always been heavily involved with computers,” she says. “Windows XP 3D Pinball, anyone?”

Yang took her first serious step towards computer science during middle school, when she began playing with inspect element on various websites. “I realized that everything I saw on that bright screen in my dark room could be reduced to millions of lines of code, to mere 1s and 0s. The concept intrigued me and drove me towards this passion for code and logic.”

Last year, after a conversation with another student at ChickTech, a tech workshop for girls, she created Codette, a workshop designed to teach girls and underrepresented minorities how to code in an artistic way. “It was two in the morning and I was designing graphics when it struck me that most people are drawn to art, whether it is visual or not.”

What does that have to do with a coding camp? “Given that the idea of sitting in a lecture hall while blinking at waterfall diagrams is probably not the most appealing way to start learning computer science, I decided to create a summer camp that takes a more artistic approach to introduce the subject to beginners.” Looking ahead to this summer, Yang plans to teach students how to produce music using Python. “Since people tend to enjoy music, this activity will hopefully serve as an exciting prologue to computing.”

Codette isn’t the only project Yang is focusing on. She’s also keeping busy with her internship at CDK Global. “I am working with my internship team to build an onboarding website for new employees and interns at the company. We want to design an attractive and functional site that sets people up for their jobs here, providing resources such as links to important websites, programs, a map of the company, and a checklist of tasks to complete. This website will hopefully replace the old, confusing process that many current and past employees had to crank through.”

Reflecting on what she is most proud of, Yang describes an application she developed during the Northwest Advanced Programming Workshop in 2016. “There, I developed an Android application using Android Studio. It is a touchscreen game of tag where people can choose to play as either a chaser or a runner. Additionally, we added enhancements such as speed boosts or invincibility power-ups. Of course, the duration of that summer workshop was far from enough time for me and my small group to perfect our game, so we are working on it outside as well.” Yang and her team hope to soon be able to release the Android application to the public.

Passing on the advice that has helped her the most, she says, “Don’t let the imposter syndrome impede your passion. During my freshman year of high school, I started an internship at Intel that required Python, but when I walked in on the first day, I had absolutely no knowledge about it. Inevitably, I felt like I was incompetent, that I did not belong…I took a few days to sit down and learn the language. After that time, I was finally able to grasp enough concepts to complete my tasks for the company. In short, nobody walks into a new job knowing everything. You are not alone when you think to yourself, ‘I have no idea what is going on.’ As long as you are willing to learn and face the challenges, you belong.”