Eighteen-year-old Alan Lai should be a senior in high school, but thanks to his motivation and passion for computer science he not only grades the assignments of his peers, he is also close to completing his undergraduate studies and earning a Bachelor’s degree.
Lai attributes his early interest in computer science and software engineering to some of experiences at Renton Prep Christian School. He said much of the course work and lessons during his high school education there focused on hands-on learning experience.
Lai said the school allowed him and classmates the opportunity to attend tech conferences, which is where his interest in computer science and software engineering was spurred.
Lai said he was looking for a creative field to pursue a career in and the limitless possibilities that coding provided peaked his interest.
“You can make anything you want,” he said. “There are endless possibilities.”
Part of what interests Lai about coding is not only that there are many different kinds of problems that can be solved with coding and software, but there are also many different ways to solve the problems themselves.
Lai said when he grades the coding scripts of other students at UW he often notices the unique solutions and methods in which people are able to achieve essentially the same result.
“It is always a fun challenge to work out a problem,” he said. “There is no better feeling than finding a solution,”.
Despite his early accelerated academic success, Lai said he would not describe himself as a “whiz kid.” Currently, he is focused on building his coding skills and “broadening his horizons,” as it relates to software engineering.
Recently, he has become interested in artificial intelligence software. He outlined a recent project in which he worked to create an algorithm to teach a computer to play Pac-Man all by itself.
“It is cool to be able to talk to a piece of technology that you made,” Lai said of certain kinds of artificial intelligence and machine learning software.
Lai is not yet sure of what kind of software engineering he would like to be involved in, but he did say that he would like to work on environmental issues and to help apply software solutions in the fight against climate change.