#TechTeen – Aashka Patel

Aashka Patel is a fifteen-year-old high school sophomore. She attends Morris County School of Technology and is one of a few girls at the Academy of Computer and Information Sciences.

She enjoys partaking in hackathons as well as organizing them. Currently, she is part of a team planning def hacks() NJ. She strongly believes that educating middle schoolers and high schoolers in computer programming is a great way to solve the country’s STEM problem. Aashka teaches middle schoolers to code and this past summer she was a mentor with Camp Sci Girls teaching Java. She is also involved with Girl Up, a UN Foundation, that advocates for girls’ education, health, safety and leadership. In school, she is an active member of Robotics Club, SkillsUSA, Key Club, and Multicultural Club. Aashka is also the proud Vice President of the Class of 2018. She is the co-founder and organizer of hackMCST Local.

In 2015, Aashka was a New Jersey Affiliate Runner Up for the Aspirations in Computing Award from the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT).

Feel free to contact her through Facebook or follow her on Twitter @aashka_18.

How did you first become involved with coding and technology?

In sixth grade, I loved using my computer and I became interested in discovering how computers worked. I started animating objects using drag-n-drop code in Scratch. Near the end of eighth grade, using Khan Academy, I started teaching myself the basics of Java graphics. Then I applied to Morris County School of Technology for the Academy of Computer Sciences and my passion for programming skyrocketed. I learned Java in depth, attended hackathons, went to CodeDay NJ, created my own websites, and began teaching code to younger kids.

Have you created any apps? Tell us about them!

During my first CodeDay NJ, I created my first Android App. My app, Piggy Bank, allows people to set a goal and calculates their monthly spending plus their monthly income. The app then finds the date they will reach their goal. It also keeps track of income and gives motivational advice or tough love to help one reach their goal.

This app was created using Eclipse, Android SDKs, and Java. CodeDay NJ is a place where beginners or experienced hackers get together for 24-hours to create amazing applications, games, and other great things using code and technology.

Besides mobile apps, I have created multiple websites, for personal use and school clubs, as well as games and PC applications for hackathons.

What did you think about coding and tech before you began? How have your views changed since you began?

Code can easily intimidate someone. Before I became involved in programming, learning to program seemed out of reach. But then I slowly started learning more and more about code through online resources. Another reason it can seem intimidating to young girls is because of the gender imbalance in computing. This is why encouragement from parents, teachers, and groups such as NCWIT can make all the difference in helping kids start to code. All someone needs is a passion for technology and the encouragement to get started.

What programming languages are you familiar with? 

I know Java, HTML, and CSS. I am familiar in C++ and Python. I am currently teaching myself C++ and Python in more depth as well as JavaScript.

What is it that you enjoy about programming?

I love how programming is all about logic. When programming, there are several ways to get to the same output, but every single way is logical. Programming also connects people. There are over 6,000 languages spoken by mankind, but I love how programming can break any language barrier as they are easier to learn.

Are there any resources that have helped you develop your skills?

In middle school, I used Scratch and Khan Academy. Currently, I am using Treehouse (shout out to NCWIT for the account) to develop my skills in Android App Development. Morris County School of Technology also plays a big role in the development of my skills. My academy teacher is incredibly skilled and passionate in teaching his students.

Why do you think students should learn how to code?

As cliche as it sounds, today’s teens are tomorrow’s future. The world has so many problems that can be solved through the use of technology. Because of this, students should learn to code. In addition, today’s world revolves around technology. In fact, no matter what field a student decides to go into, code is a useful skill to have.  

Do you see yourself building a career field in the tech field?

Definitely! After traveling to Gashora, Rwanda this summer to take part in the US Department of State’s WiSci Camp, I plan to pursue a career combining my two passions: computer programming and social entrepreneurship. I would love to attend Carnegie Mellon University in the future to pursue my dreams.

What advice do you have for other beginners?

If you are at least the tiniest bit curious about computing, go for it. There are plenty of online resources that can help you learn and summer camps, both virtual and in-person, that can help you learn as well. Also attended hackathons! Getting hands-on experience around other hackers is the best way to learn in this field!

Begin with resources like Khan Academy and Codecademy, but the best way to learn is through experience. Start building small projects and building your way up. Many programming questions can be answered on Stack Overflow. Next, come to hackathons. There are tons of high school friendly hackathons that are great places to learn and if going to a big hackathon seems intimidating, come to CodeDay!