By Joseph Dong

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Ever since I was in kindergarten, I was fascinated by computers and their workings. I was amazed by their ability to compute, simulate, sense, and interact to create web pages, games, documents, etc. This “connection” between me and computers was reinforced, at age 10, when I was introduced to programming. So it was inevitable that I would join CTY’s Fundamentals of Computer Science A (FCPSA) residential course at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), probably the most memorable experience I had this summer.

When I reached LMU after a long car ride, I was directed to the dormitory, which I was to live in. I realized that I was now in a community of smart students, and so I began to anticipate the next 3 weeks. The following day, our dorm members all went to class, all of which were participating in FCPSA. Our teacher, Steve Earth, was a very energetic one. He started the class off with an introduction to binary, and then proceeded with all sorts of topics, such as binary operations, circuits, graph theory, minimum spanning trees, gates, etc. over the course of 3 weeks.

One of the main highlights of this course was learning about sorting items. This topic has always been somewhat vague to me. But once explained through animations, Python, and oral explanations, I learned some new things. For one, I always thought that all sorting algorithms are equally efficient. However, our teacher explained that certain sorting algorithms were faster and more reliable than others. For example, bubble sort (a sort that swaps adjacent items based on their value) is one of the least efficient sorting algorithms, and merge sort (a sort that merges sections of a list together based on values and repeating that while going broader and broader) is one of the most efficient and fast ones.

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Another key experience I had at CTY was when the camp invited a veteran hacker, Garret Picchioni, for a guest speech about hacking Adam Penenberg, a New-York Times reporter. Adam had actually requested SpiderLabs to hack his phone, computer, etc. so that he could write a report on it. In one month (his team stood idle for the first two months because they wanted Adam to completely forget), Garret and some others found all of his usernames and passwords, along with where he lived and what his apartment room looked like. While telling his story, Garret shared some experiences he had while hacking. One of them was trying not to look suspicious, which was very hard, as his team had a giant dish on the top of their car, and they were standing outside Adam’s apartment 24/7. All these events made the speech very enjoyable.

All the while, these experiences let me learn a little more about computers in general, and temporarily satisfied my impulse of learning computer science. Who knows -- maybe the things that I’ve learned can help me later in life, when the world has gone digital.