Monday, August 5, 2013

Bemley Scholar Byron Wooden Seeks Computer Science Degree from University of Illinois

BDPA Chicago chapter has trained some excellent young men and women in its Student Information Technology Education & Scholarship (SITES) program over the years. None better than Byron Wooden. Byron earned a Dr. Jesse Bemley Scholarship as a result of the bronze-medal performance of his High School Computer Competition (HSCC) team trained by Chicago to compete at the 2010 National BDPA HSCC Championships. Byron informed us recently that he plans to use the Bemley Scholarship funding to study for a computer science degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Class of 2017).

During Byron's high school years he was part of the cross-country track team and earned a spot on the dean's list all four years. He also became active with the BDPA Chicago chapter as a high school student. His passion for problem solving through web development is what brought him to BDPA in the first place. His BDPA experiences inspired him on his current pursuit of higher education in a STEM-related curriculum.

We asked Byron to share his thoughts on the BDPA experience:

At the start of 8th grade, I had no programming experience. What I had instead was a desire to solve problems by building things. At that time, I wanted to be an inventor and entrepreneur. I would come up with ideas for products or services to create; everything from flying cars to a nanny service to help new moms. I envisioned myself building things for a living. My Dad took me to work one day and introduced me to HTML, CSS and JavaScript. He showed me how to build webpages ... and I loved it. I could build anything that I saw in my mind's eye; and I tore through those languages until eventually they weren't enough. Eventually I knew that I needed more. I joined BDPA in the 8th grade because I wanted to be better able to build web sites and solve the sort of problems that we all see everywhere.

I was discouraged when I first started with BDPA Chicago chapter. I assumed that I would be the most talented programmer in the class due to my prior experience with web development. The opposite was true. There were at least six seniors with years of experience and dozens of other students with more age and experience than me as well.

It wasn't likely that I would do well enough to make the national HSCC team from Chicago. However, I managed to stay interested in the program for two reasons. First, I didn't join BDPA to be the "best coder". I joined to become a "better coder" so my job was to polish my skill set and not to shine. The second reason I stayed was because the HSCC program wasn't a competition, or at least it didn't feel like one. The program felt like a class, the first one I had ever taken where everyone was engaged, helpful and where the environment was fine-tuned to produce advancement.
2010 BDPA Chicago HSCC Team in Philadelphia
Through focus and consistency, I managed to be part of the national team that year (2010); the only freshman on a team full of seniors. Our team went on to place third place in the national HSCC championships held in Philadelphia.

My sophomore year was a rebuilding one for the chapter's HSCC program. Most of the students from the prior year graduated. That year (2011), I became team captain and a large onus was placed on me to help the team be successful. This year, just like last, did not proceed the way that I expected. I assumed that my experience from the previous year meant that I had nothing left to learn from BDPA.

2012 BDPA Chicago Chapter SITES Students
The truth is that in all my years in BDPA, I've never stopped learning the same lesson that I'm learning today: how to be a leader. It is from these lessons that I learned to manage a team of peers, take responsibility and report back to coaches on the progress of the team, and also how to help instruct other students in the program.

Although the teams I was on never placed as high at the national HSCC championships as we did during my freshman year, I wouldn't trade the experiences that I've had with BDPA Chicago chapter for any other, because I know that these experiences have been invaluable in preparing me for a professional career in ways I never could have imagined when I joined BDPA.

During my first four years with BDPA, I've not only had the opportunity to improve my skills as a web developer, but I've also had the opportunity to find other dedicated coders to build websites with. It is working with my BDPA teammate that has meant the most to me. They challenged and pushed me as a web developer by sharing new techniques or challenging my programming logic and even by given me competition to try to outshine. I will leave for the University of Illinois in the fall. I'm sure there will be aspiring web developers there as well. I can't wait to find them and to begin to build web sites with them; a lesson well and gratefully learned at BDPA!

BDPA Education and Technology Foundation is very proud to have Byron as one of our Bemley Scholars! We look forward to following his college career and eventually his professional career. I sense that Byron may be back with BDPA one day as a chapter president or a regional vice president or perhaps as our national president! Share some love with Byron as a REPLY or COMMENT to his testimonial.

Finally, you can help us increase the number of college scholarships that we give out to the BDPA Chicago students with your secure online donation. Won't you support BDPA today?

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