Last year, in Ms. Healey’s AP Computer Science class, I realized my passion for coding. Before last year, I had never completed a single full programming project. I went into this directed study with the goal of furthering my coding knowledge and experience in a fun way - game development. Unexpectedly, I ended this directed study with an entirely new way of looking at and approaching programming projects.

Throughout my Computer Science class last year, every assignment, including my final project, had hundreds of guides, tutorials and help on the internet and from my friends. While I definitely still learned a lot from this class, I found myself constantly relying on others for help with my projects.

This year, my Interactive Media directed study allowed me to break through this reliance, and gain an immense, newfound confidence in myself and my own abilities. I came up with a completely original idea for a new game, used sparsely documented plugins and frameworks, and was forced to work through each problem on my own.

This may sound hyperbolic or cheesy, but this experience has genuinely and significantly changed the way I look at independent projects, and released a previously hidden creativity within myself. Before, ideas were simply ideas; sometimes they were cool, and maybe I’d share them with a friend. Now, ideas are a foundation for new projects. Every time a thought pops into my head, I now autonomously begin to work on it in my own mind.

This self-confidence is not exclusive to programming. In this project, I was challenged with creating visual art and music for my design. While the music part of things was incredibly challenging and I ultimately ran out of time, I have most definitely found a new confidence in my graphical design abilities.

Over this coming break and the next ones, I have decided to continue working on this project, allowing it to grow and morph with each of the new ideas that are now flowing freely from my mind. Not only would I like to continue this project, but the knowledge and confidence that I’ve gained from this project have inspired me to pick up work on failed past projects, and to press through to the future as an independent, self-reliant and confident developer. This project has helped me immeasurably in making steps towards realizing my dreams of a future in Computer Science.

Finally, for any other students looking to work on a similar project, I have one word of advice: prioritize. I spent weeks on unnecessary mechanics and ideas, many of which never came to fruition, and ignoring some of the most essential parts of my project. While I was able to eventually complete the project, the art, music, user-interaction and polishing began way too late. This procrastination and lack of prioritization lead to incredible stress during the last week of the year specifically, and could have been easily avoided by better prioritizing my time near the beginning of the year. Also, I would tell them to finish at least a week early. When I finally finished my project the night before it was due, I played with a friend and discovered a few other bugs. While I was able to iron most out, this ate out of my time to work on other classwork and was incredibly stressful to deal with.