Kid Coder Q+A: Declan

Meet Declan. He's a high school senior in Washington, DC and he's learning to code. We were so impressed with his drive to learn and create, and his dedication to his robotics team, that we had to reach out for a bit more information. Read on to learn about some of the awesome things he's been doing with his Codestarter laptop.

"I am still trying to learn basic programming. I first got really interested in programming beyond a simple little thought exercise due to all the late night debugging sessions with my robotic team senior programmer to fix the code. Before this, I did try to learn programming but I was never truly invested, it was more about understanding what other people were doing and trying to put myself in their shoes. I hope to take this experience with me as a fun and new way of thinking, but also as a potential career. Right now I hope to help construct user interfaces and public works. I'm fascinated by how people interact with their world and how our world shapes us into who we are."

Why did you join the robotics team?

I first joined the robotics team because of the design aspect, or the actual building of the robot. My first year on the team we also did the ION challenge; it was a challenge to get a LEGO NXT robot to navigate a city as fast as possible. At the time I was only mildly interested, but I realized just how vital it was and how interesting programming was by the end of the year.

You told us that you debugged a code in your robotics program. What does this code do?

Last year I helped debug our autonomous program and this year I am helping with the autonomous and normal controlled portion.

You also told us that you'd like to work towards closing the gap between hardware and software. What does this mean to you?

The hardware and software gap is very hard to close but it must be started at the very beginning of the design process. You do this by interluding the programmers and other people who are more focused on software in making the basic design requirements, and from the other side, you also need to implement these features in ways that both simplify the mechanics and also the commands needed to run it. This encourages good practices on the hardware side in terms of documentation and thinking through designs instead of just letting the robot or anything else take shape.

What are your plans after high school?

After high school I want to go to college and get a degree in engineering. I also want to hike the Appalachian Trail over one summer.

How are you using your Codestarter laptop?

I'm using the Codestarter laptop to get more familiar with programming in languages such as c and java, mostly because, while I can currently debug, I can not effectively write more code at the moment.

How old were you when you got your first computer?

I got my first computer in middle school as a Christmas present. I actually got it about 2 or 3 weeks later to impress upon me that it was not a toy. Now it still feels like it runs elementary, though it was originally a Windows Vista computer. That computer really got me into linux, and it would probably be completely unusable now otherwise.

What do you enjoy most about robotics and coding?

For me the best part about both coding and the robotics team is making something work. The simple joy of getting it to work right the first time is great, and even better once you can get it to work consistently well.