The Student News Site of Taipei American School




My Secret Life: Mr. Steckler, Army Programmer


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You can see Mr Steckler’s program inside of the car.

For those of you who don’t know what Mr. Steckler, the new AP Computer Science teacher, did before arriving at TAS, it can be summed up in one word: classified. Wondering why? He worked as a software engineer and manager for a US defense contractor in the Los Angeles area. That means he helped write code for his company’s customer, and their customer was usually… wait for it… the United States army.
Mr. Steckler also managed a team of software developers in the company. He says, “I made sure they knew what to do, how to do it, made sure they got it done, and then yelled at them if they didn’t. Minus the yelling, it’s the same as teaching.” Thankfully for his AP computer science students at TAS, he adds, “No yelling while teaching, that’s my rule.”
It all started when he began interning there while he was in college. After that, the job was such a good fit that Mr. Steckler continued working in software for 15 years. He says, “I liked it so much I just stayed there forever.” However, he began teaching at TAS because of his affinity for instructing and explaining computer science and math topics.
While he worked for the US military, one of the things Mr. Steckler programmed was a system whose goal was to prevent good guys from hurting each other. Mr. Steckler says, “A big problem in past battles in the 90s was that when things were happening really fast and good guys saw someone on a mountain across the field, they didn’t know if he was good or bad and shot first because they were afraid of getting shot back.” So they developed a system where a soldier could simply look at a map and check to see if the person they saw was good or bad. Blue dots represented all the good guys. This program has been used in Iraq, Afghanistan, and currently in South Korea.
Not only did Mr. Steckler get to help save lives, he also got the chance to travel to US army bases, including Alaska. Mr. Steckler says, “My most vivid memories are getting to travel to “cool” places. I say cool loosely, because in the US for some reason, they decide to put army bases in the most not fun places possible, like the desert.” He was often sent there to train people how to use the system, make alterations, and fix problems. Although this led to a lot of overnights and 24-hour shifts, Mr. Steckler felt like it was all worth it since he knew he was helping people.
Overall, Mr. Steckler loved his job because the work he did was rewarding.
“I’m not smart enough to be a doctor, so the closest thing was working on a system that could save lives, instead of take them.”
Many of the photos Mr Steckler had were classified, but here are few images of his program in action:
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Mr Stecklers presents his program to potential users

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A closeup of the program Mr Steckler designed for the US Army


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