This week, we’re proud to feature Thomas Suarez on #TechTeenTuesday. Thomas is 16 years old and in the 10th grade. He began coding at 9 years old. In 2011 at the age of 12, Thomas gave a TEDx talk on teaching students to code, which has now been viewed nearly four million times. You can find him on twitter at @tomthecarrot.
How did you first become involved with coding and technology?
I have always been fascinated with computers and technology. When I was very young, I began exploring the computer and creating videos with special effects. I began programming when I was 9 years old and created my first iOS app when I was 10.
I needed to learn the fundamentals of programming through exploration and project-based work. By exploring and creating a project without knowing exactly what I needed to do, I was able to learn the fundamentals in an “organic” way. It was (and still is) really fun!
I am self-taught in computers and programming. Curiosity drives what I learn next. If a new technology or method looks interesting, I jump right on board and start experimenting. Trial and error is key.
Have you created any apps? Tell us about them!
I have developed multiple apps for iOS, Android, and Google Glass, many of which are open-source on GitHub. Three of my favorite apps that I developed are Bustin Jieber (a Justin Bieber whack-a-mole game), Earth Fortune (a beautiful horoscope app), and WiTag (a real-life laser tag game utilizing GPS, cellular, servers, and compass).
My apps are usually inspired by a new technology or platform, or a concept that I think would be interesting for many people. For example, Bustin Jieber was inspired in 5th grade when many students at school said they did not like Justin Bieber. The first version of Earth Fortune was my entry into the App Store, while the second version (Earth Fortune HD) was focused on perfecting the user interface. WiTag was developed because I wanted to play laser tag with friends, anywhere, using only smartphones.
What did you think about tech and coding before you began?
I was driven to programing and other areas of technology by curiosity. My fascination for tech has made me curious and inspired me to explore technology. I believe that by beginning my journey before I knew there were limitations, I was undaunted by artificial boundaries.
I don’t think my views have changed; they’ve evolved. In some cases, they have been confirmed. For example, I strongly believe that everyone who wants to learn to code/program, should be given an opportunity to learn how. If someone learns how to program, no matter who they are or where they come from, they will be successful! The need for qualified programmers, who will earn an excellent living, will only increase each year.
What programming languages are you familiar with?
Are there any resources that have helped you develop your skills?
The Internet has been my biggest resource for developing programming skills. Specifically, sites like StackOverflow and GitHub have helped me fine-tune my knowledge and critical thinking skills by being exposed to other forms of programming and bug hunting.
Why do you think students should learn how to code?
Coding is fun and powerful, allowing you to exercise your mind in a new way while creating what you want. Additionally, there is a tremendous need for programmers that is currently not being fulfilled and which will only continue to grow. No matter who you are or what your background, by learning to code you can be successful! Coding is a rewarding and lucrative skill for anyone who has the desire to learn.
Do you see yourself building a career field in the tech field?
I will absolutely continue in the technology field. I will continue to spread the word of the importance of programming/coding and bring my app course, AppCity, to more people around the world. I will also continue my work to revolutionize 3D printing technology with my ORB 3D Printer.
What advice do you have for other beginners?
Find your passion, be curious and begin coding. If you have a desire to create something which interests you, you will be successful. And try not to be discouraged. I’ve learned a lot by moving forward anyway when things didn’t initially go as planned.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to high school students who are potentially interested in learning how to code?
There are many Internet resources, such as StackOverflow, that can help along the way if you get stuck. Although coding takes years to master, it only takes some time to learn the fundamentals. Start small, scale from there, and see where your curiosity takes you!