Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
Sweat dripped from my brow as I carefully set my roll of tape onto the granite kitchen counter in front of me. My masterpiece was finally complete. As I slid down from my stool, I was careful to not let my knobby ten-year-old knees topple into the counter and risk knocking over the neon green box perched there. Its contents were delicate, and if they fell, the hours that I had spent working would have been for naught. This seemingly unimportant little box represented my first effort in which my creativity and imagination combined to form something tangible.
The object in question was a recycled box of Johnson’s Extra Soft Baby Wipes. It was now filled with a delightful array of objects and substances, including water, pieces of plastic straw, sugar cubes, and rotten banana peels. The damp paper sign taped to the front of the box announced what I had been working on for the past day—FLY WATER RESORT: COME AND RELAX WITH FAMILY & FRIENDS.
It had been another hot Memphis summer, and my aversion to the sweltering temperatures was eclipsed by only one thing—my antipathy for flies. I had always been a bleeding heart, and every time I debated swatting flies, the empathy I felt for the unsightly insects exceeded the revulsion I felt towards them. This culminated in a desire to create something to keep them alive, but far, far away from me.
As I beamed at my creation, I could almost see my residents zipping down my straw slides, frolicking on the cardboard platforms that I had taped to the edges of the box, paddling throughout the water on pieces of straw, applauding my utter genius as they munched on banana peels and sugar cubes while reclining oh-so-comfortably on chairs that I had carefully woven with plastic string. I imagined meeting the President, receiving glinting bronze awards, appearing on Oprah in my pair of beat-up Converse, fuchsia dress, and tiara. My brilliance would leave architects, engineers, and animal-rights activists in tears. I would call myself Gustave Eiffel, but my creation rivaled the Eiffel Tower.
To others, my resort may have seemed just an unusually smelly plastic box (with an ungodly amount of tape on it), but to me, it was a lesson. Creating it made me realize that if I wanted to make something, all that was stopping me was myself. Since then, my senses of creativity and imagination have been interwoven, much like the plastic strings that made up the lounge chairs of my utopia.
Although now my canvas is a screen, not a box of baby wipes, my senses of creativity and imagination remain interlaced. Whether I am making a solar-powered phone charger or using Cheetos to describe Python variables to a ten-year-old, I can easily find ways to relate abstract concepts and ideas to each other.
Computer science gave birth to Snapchat, it broke German ciphers in World War II, and it plays a part in every field from music theory to aircraft design. It is one of the only fields that relates everything. This versatility is why I have fallen in love with it: anything can be made in the digital world, even a vacation getaway for some pesky winged insects.
I cannot claim that I have created a virtual fly resort (I am still working on debugging), but I have used my knowledge to extend computer literacy to children through organizations such as Girls Who Code. When I teach, I can feel the sparks of creativity in my students igniting, much like how my own did that day when I was ten. As I continue learning, I hope to help others not by building slide-equipped resorts, but by imagining, and then creating more ways to extend computer literacy to all.