STEM student stars

STEM+student+stars

The Blue & Gold explores the lives of students working in science, technology, engineering, and math.

As a child, Catherine Chang (‘19) wanted to be a model. “I loved just being on a stage with cameras flashing, and people watching me,” she says. This year, Catherine will once again have an opportunity to take the stage. Instead of showcasing clothing, however, she will be helping her International Genetically Modified Machines (iGEM) team at the National Yang Ming University (NYMU) with a biological mechanism that could change the world.
“I remember liking science when I was in Lower School, from experiments as simple as balancing clips on one fingertip to observing our class’s pet rabbit,” she says. “From a young age, science was different than other subjects: we could experience and actually visualize how things worked.”
Her love of science also satisfies her curiosity for the world around her. “My mom told me my favorite question to ask as a kid was ‘why?’” says Catherine. “I guess for science I get answers to most of my questions about how everything works. I understand why water goes up a root and why an ambulance sounds louder when it’s closer to me.”
“I’m always really committed to everything I try out, everything I try out,” she says. Everything, from her meticulous science homework to her Instagram account, is a testament to that. Catherine’s fan account for Selena Gomez (@proudofgomez) is over five years old and has over 100,000 followers. There are even fan accounts for her fan account. “I’ve liked sharing my thoughts and feelings with the world since I was little,” she says. Now, she will be able do the same with molecular biology.

“I’m always really committed to everything I try out.”

Catherine’s extroverted nature lends her well to some of the lesser-known aspects of iGEM, like educational outreach. Her infectious enthusiasm for everything she devotes herself to might attract new participants even for molecular biology, a subject with a notoriously dry reputation.
Will she be able to get 100,000 people to like NYMU iGEM’s Facebook page? “Probably not,” she laughs. But Catherine’s role in saving te planet—and in her education of project-viewers—will reach beyond anything she’s done before.
 
“What’s the average number of days we give a programmer to program a robot?” Melissa Pai (‘18), a programmer for VEX Robotics, asks her teammates.
“Zero minutes and zero seconds,” they say, laughing.
As the only programmer on her five-person VEX team, Melissa has to deal with the difficulties of working on a piece of code without a finished robot. Ideally, a programmer gets about two weeks to finalize a program. In reality, Melissa often gets less than a week.
VEX programming is largely a process of trial and error. She says, “I write a program based off of theory, try it on the field and see if it’s working, change the code, and repeat the last two steps a lot of times.” She tests out her code on random parts to create a basic framework for the program, then makes adjustments when the builders are done.
Unlike pure coders, Melissa has to take into account how the robot will physically implement her program. She might have to write 300 lines of code to do something as simple as “move forward” to guard against a malfunctioning part or low battery voltage.
Luckily, her four years of VEX experience means that she is accustomed to operating under time pressure. Melissa was introduced to robotics in freshman year when she took the Robotics, Engineering, and Technology course to fulfill her computer science requirement. She soon discovered an interest in the subject and joined the VEX team with a group of friends.

She might have to write 300 lines of code to do something as simple as “move forward.”

With her robotics team, she has panicked over last-minute changes to the robot, gotten career advice, and done push-ups in the hotel lobby at 2 a.m during the 2016 Pan-Pacific VEX Robotics Championships. “They don’t treat me differently because I’m a girl,” she says.
Still, she wished that she was not so frequently the only girl in the lab, and co-founded the Girls in STEM club to encourage others to take advantage of the myriad science, technology, engineering, and mathematics opportunities at TAS. “From a girl’s perspective, I want there to be more girls in STEM,” she says. “From a programmer’s perspective, I want more people to be interested.”
She also introduces others to the robotics program by making tutorials for middle schoolers, and serving as a Teacher Assistant for Dr. Carlos Delgado-Mata’s Computer Science class. “Hopefully we can save some time for other people and pass on some wisdom—if we have any,” she says.
Melissa does so many different forms of outreach because she wants others to feel welcomed in the robotics community that has, for her, become a second home full of hilarious antics, banter, and inside jokes. “People think we’re just a bunch of nerds, but we’re a bunch of funny nerds. Our main language is not English, or even Java—it’s sarcasm.” says Melissa. “I hope everyone will feel accepted in the robotics lab, regardless of their gender or experience level. It’s never too late to walk in and join!”
“What’s the average number of days we give a programmer to program a robot?” Melissa Pai (‘18), a programmer for VEX Robotics, asks her teammates.
“Zero minutes and zero seconds,” they say, laughing.
As the only programmer on her five-person VEX team, Melissa has to deal with the difficulties of working on a piece of code without a finished robot. Ideally, a programmer gets about two weeks to finalize a program. In reality, Melissa often gets less than a week.
VEX programming is largely a process of trial and error. She says, “I write a program based off of theory, try it on the field and see if it’s working, change the code, and repeat the last two steps a lot of times.” She tests out her code on random parts to create a basic framework for the program, then makes adjustments when the builders are done.
Unlike pure coders, Melissa has to take into account how the robot will physically implement her program. She might have to write 300 lines of code to do something as simple as “move forward” to guard against a malfunctioning part or low battery voltage.
Luckily, her four years of VEX experience means that she is accustomed to operating under time pressure. Melissa was introduced to robotics in freshman year when she took the Robotics, Engineering, and Technology course to fulfill her computer science requirement. She soon discovered an interest in the subject and joined the VEX team with a group of friends.

She might have to write 300 lines of code to do something as simple as “move forward.”

With her robotics team, she has panicked over last-minute changes to the robot, gotten career advice, and done push-ups in the hotel lobby at 2 a.m during the 2016 Pan-Pacific VEX Robotics Championships. “They don’t treat me differently because I’m a girl,” she says.
Still, she wished that she was not so frequently the only girl in the lab, and co-founded the Girls in STEM club to encourage others to take advantage of the myriad science, technology, engineering, and mathematics opportunities at TAS. “From a girl’s perspective, I want there to be more girls in STEM,” she says. “From a programmer’s perspective, I want more people to be interested.”
She also introduces others to the robotics program by making tutorials for middle schoolers, and serving as a Teacher Assistant for Dr. Carlos Delgado-Mata’s Computer Science class. “Hopefully we can save some time for other people and pass on some wisdom—if we have any,” she says.
Melissa does so many different forms of outreach because she wants others to feel welcomed in the robotics community that has, for her, become a second home full of hilarious antics, banter, and inside jokes. “People think we’re just a bunch of nerds, but we’re a bunch of funny nerds. Our main language is not English, or even Java—it’s sarcasm.” says Melissa. “I hope everyone will feel accepted in the robotics lab, regardless of their gender or experience level. It’s never too late to walk in and join!”
“What’s the average number of days we give a programmer to program a robot?” Melissa Pai (‘18), a programmer for VEX Robotics, asks her teammates.
“Zero minutes and zero seconds,” they say, laughing.
As the only programmer on her five-person VEX team, Melissa has to deal with the difficulties of working on a piece of code without a finished robot. Ideally, a programmer gets about two weeks to finalize a program. In reality, Melissa often gets less than a week.
VEX programming is largely a process of trial and error. She says, “I write a program based off of theory, try it on the field and see if it’s working, change the code, and repeat the last two steps a lot of times.” She tests out her code on random parts to create a basic framework for the program, then makes adjustments when the builders are done.
Unlike pure coders, Melissa has to take into account how the robot will physically implement her program. She might have to write 300 lines of code to do something as simple as “move forward” to guard against a malfunctioning part or low battery voltage.
Luckily, her four years of VEX experience means that she is accustomed to operating under time pressure. Melissa was introduced to robotics in freshman year when she took the Robotics, Engineering, and Technology course to fulfill her computer science requirement. She soon discovered an interest in the subject and joined the VEX team with a group of friends.

She might have to write 300 lines of code to do something as simple as “move forward.”

With her robotics team, she has panicked over last-minute changes to the robot, gotten career advice, and done push-ups in the hotel lobby at 2 a.m during the 2016 Pan-Pacific VEX Robotics Championships. “They don’t treat me differently because I’m a girl,” she says.
Still, she wished that she was not so frequently the only girl in the lab, and co-founded the Girls in STEM club to encourage others to take advantage of the myriad science, technology, engineering, and mathematics opportunities at TAS. “From a girl’s perspective, I want there to be more girls in STEM,” she says. “From a programmer’s perspective, I want more people to be interested.”
She also introduces others to the robotics program by making tutorials for middle schoolers, and serving as a Teacher Assistant for Dr. Carlos Delgado-Mata’s Computer Science class. “Hopefully we can save some time for other people and pass on some wisdom—if we have any,” she says.
Melissa does so many different forms of outreach because she wants others to feel welcomed in the robotics community that has, for her, become a second home full of hilarious antics, banter, and inside jokes. “People think we’re just a bunch of nerds, but we’re a bunch of funny nerds. Our main language is not English, or even Java—it’s sarcasm.” says Melissa. “I hope everyone will feel accepted in the robotics lab, regardless of their gender or experience level. It’s never too late to walk in and join!”