Because he's a bit of an introvert, Will ’23 says, he doesn’t consider himself a leader–yet, the brand-new and already popular Competitive Programming club he co-founded this year indicates otherwise. Keep reading to get to know this junior from Canton, Massachusetts, who strives to improve his efficiency as a programmer even as he’s learning to slow down and absorb the perspectives of those around him.
Getting to Know You
What is bringing you joy right now?
Recently, I started a Minecraft server with some friends, which has been really fun. I also enjoy playing Tetris for it’s efficiency aspect; I like to find the optimal solution. And it's really fun to battle other people in the ranked mode that I play.
What do you think is the most intriguing paradox?
We know so much about math, yet there are still things we might never be able to prove, the proof being to show that there is no counter example. And I don't know it's formally defined as a paradox, but in computer science, there's a theory that no program can determine whether a given program will stop or just keep on running forever; it would basically break if it existed. It's called the Halting Problem.
What is your favorite comfort food?
Cheesecake with some fruit on top.
What was/is your favorite class (at Commonwealth or elsewhere)?
It would either be CS [Computer Science] 1 or 2. I came to Commonwealth with a bit of prior competitive programming experience in Python, but it was really results oriented. CS1 and 2 have given me a different outlook on programs, especially the way I think about complicated structures and hierarchies.
Life as a Commonwealth Student (and Beyond)
What made you want to come to Commonwealth?
I really liked the community. It's a really small school. Everyone knows each other, at least to some extent. And everyone's so nice. Coming from a smaller [middle] school, it also spoke to me a bit more than other larger schools.
You started a Competitive Programming Club at Commonwealth this year; what has that experience been like?
So it was me and Amith '24. We both have done competitive programming before, and decided we wanted to try to teach it, too, so if anyone wanted to join [who didn’t have experience], then it would be a bit easier for them to get started.
Usually it's all about just finding a solution to a given problem using mainstream languages like C++, Java, and Python. But then as you go up the levels, you focus more on efficiency, making your programs faster (with fewer “steps”), so they run within the given constraints. You’re given more extreme test cases, sometimes with millions of numbers, so you're forced to solve problems with more efficient methods.
I'm not sure actually that I perceive myself as a leader. I’m a more introverted person. But since I know everyone in the club, and I always find it easier to talk about the things I'm passionate about, it feels kind of like teaching a class. Everyone asks a lot of questions. It's really, really been a great time.
What is your favorite programming language?
Technically, the only languages I know are Java and Python. If I had to choose, I’d say Java right now. Python’s syntax is a bit loose for my standards.
Who knows, maybe if I learn a bit of C++, that might become my favorite language. One of my friends codes in C++, and it seems pretty nice. There's a lot of flexibility while maintaining the same level of structure I am used to.
How has Commonwealth colored the way you look at the world? How you plan for your future?
Well, as far as thinking about the world, it’s really opened up my mind to consider other people's viewpoints. In conversation and in my writing, I have a tendency to omit details that I just assume are common knowledge, but Commonwealth has helped me realize how different backgrounds make people view things differently. So now I make sure what I say is understood.
I’m not really sure about the future, but I'm most likely going to have a career in computer science—though engineering has always been another passion of mine. I think it's really cool, especially the hands-on aspect. Coding is more abstract. With engineering, I've always liked building tangible things and feeling like I’ve had a direct effect.
What’s your advice for prospective students considering Commonwealth?
It's really all about fit. So keep your mind open and go for the school you think would fit you the best.