Tuesday, October 11, 2016

14-Year-Old Prodigy Programmer Dreams In Code

Santiago Gonzalez. I'm 14 and I love to program.
YAGO GONZALEZ Santiago is crazy about computers. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: I'm fluent in about a dozen
different programming languages. Thousands of people have downloaded my apps for the
Mac iPhone and iPad. YAGO GONZALEZ: From sixth grade, he jumped
to full time college student. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: I will be sixteen when
I graduate college and seventeen when I finish my masters. I really enjoy learning. To me,
I find it as essential as eating. Either you die or you're pretty miserable without learning.
SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: I generally wake up at 5:30. Then I program for about an hour, eat
breakfast. YAGO GONZALEZ: Here's some tortillas, Santi.
SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: [To father] Thank you. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: I go to school. Right now,
I'm a junior at the Colorado School of Mines. I'm majoring in computer science.
YONG BAKOS: Good. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: I go to see Professor Bakos
pretty often to look at my code. YONG BAKOS: I usually have this disease which
I call long-line-itis. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Okay. Well we may be able
to do that. YONG BAKOS: [To Santiago] Ah, yeah. That removes
the instance which you don't even need. I didn't even think of that. Y'know the motivation
we talked about in class about writing beautiful code?
SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Mhmm. YONG BAKOS: Is it enough to write that slew
of code such that the program just works or is the code also the artistic medium?
SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Beautiful code is short and concise so if you were to give that code
to another programmer, they would say, oh, that's well written code. It's much like if
you're writing a poem.
SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Right now, here, this is Objective C. It's what iPhone, iPad & Mac
use for programming. I've created right now about 15 apps for both the Mac, iPhone, and
iPad. Sometimes when I go to sleep, I'm stuck with an annoying bug that I can't fix and
in my dreams I see myself programming. And when I wake up, I have figured out the solution.
YONG BAKOS: Santiago's not just a machine at excels at absorbing information and applying
that information. He actually is transforming that information and empowering himself to
create those things he wants to create.
SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: One of the main reasons I started developing apps was to help people
achieve something they wanted to do such as decorate a Christmas tree or play checkers
with a very nice user interface.
VANESSA GONZALEZ: Santiago he is very old in some ways and very young in others. Sometimes
you forget that you're talking to a 14-year-old, but sometimes he seems to be even younger
than that. He can care less about what he's wearing or girls.
SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: No, I'm not interested in having a girlfriend at all. I find that
it's a tremendous waste of time. PRODUCER: [Off camera] Tell me how you really
feel. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: No, that is how I really
feel! YAGO GONZALEZ: He's very sure of himself.
VANESSA GONZALEZ: He has been a different kid since he was little.
SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Well, I really like to crochet. This is one of the piggies from Angry
Birds. VANESSA GONZALEZ: He has come to accept that
difference and embrace it. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Yes, I definitely consider
myself a nerd. VANESSA GONZALEZ: But it has not always been
this good.
YAGO GONZALEZ: When we first tested Santiago, he scored in the 99.99%.
VANESSA GONZALEZ: We would explain something as if we were explaining it to an adult and
he would understand. YAGO GONZALEZ: His first interest was rocks
& minerals but he wanted to learn about rocks & minerals from adult books.
VANESSA GONZALEZ: At that point he was in first grade. You could tell that his mind
was somewhere else. YAGO GONZALEZ: He would come back from elementary
school and he would be miserable because he wasn't being challenged.
SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: I had teachers who didn't really quite get me. It was just a very boring
and kinda painful experience. YONG BAKOS: For exceptionally gifted students
like Santiago, these students are actually bored to tears literally the fact that they're
being given this material that doesn't challenge them. It's as if you and I sat down and we
said our ABCs for about 2 hours. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: In regular school, I found
it was sort of ridiculous to be a nerd. The other kids, they did tease me and kinda mock
me quite a bit. VANESSA GONZALEZ: We knew that he needed to
be somewhere else. God knows what would have happened if we didn't guide him the right
way. He could have been a disaster.
VANESSA GONZALEZ: And then we found Colorado School of Mines.
YONG BAKOS: Colorado School of Mines is actually a very reputable engineering school here in
the front range and actually throughout the world.
VANESSA GONZALEZ: They were willing to take a chance and Santiago proved that he could
do it. Now he can really be himself and relate with the students.
SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: [To student] This is really cool! Just seeing from not knowing at all,
it's magic. YONG BAKOS: We have all sorts of, let's call
them weird students, here at Mines so I think that most people on this campus really embrace
that. WILLIAM HOFF: I mean, we're all kind of nerds
here, so we can interact pretty easily. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: They're at Mines to learn,
they're not goofing off and interrupting all the time and I don't think I'd really want
to have to interact with kids my own age.
SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: [To professor] So these sensors are actually a little larger than
the other ones. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Currently, this semester,
I'm a research assistant for a professor at Mines.
WILLIAM HOFF: I'm working to improve energy efficiency. Santiago's developing the sensor
network we're going to be putting up in the building.
SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Yeah, I've been working on the algorithm to see what kind of filter
would be best for this without having any signal loss since we can't get any code on
the sun spots so it's difficult. RESEARCHER: We'll solve that. I don't know
what it is right now, but we'll figure it out.
WILLIAM HOFF: Do you want to sketch out what the code may look like?
SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Sure. WILLIAM HOFF: I was really needing someone
to develop that kind of project and Santiago is a perfect fit.
SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: [To research team] We put the signal in a low pass filter…
YONG BAKOS: He loves being in college and learning at the pace he needs to be learning
at. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Right now, there are quite
a few things in my different classes that are really really interesting. For example,
Elements of Computing Systems. TEACHER: Yes, Santiago.
SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: So is this what other architectures like x86 and ARM use?
TEACHER: The basic principle certainly will be the same.
VANESSA GONZALEZ: It's really exciting to see how much he enjoys learning about different
things and it's contagious as well. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: [To teacher] So there are
variations of MIPs? TEACHER: Yes, there are.
SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Oh, I see. Thank you. Have a nice weekend.
YAGO GONZALEZ: If I had that drive when I was in college, that would have been fabulous.
I'm learning so much from my child now. That's pretty wonderful.
YONG BAKOS: Life for Santiago may be somewhat of a marathon that he's already running through
and I hope that he keeps the pace. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: After I finish my masters,
I'm thinking about getting a PhD in computer science at Stanford and my ultimate goal is
to work at Apple. YAGO GONZALEZ: It's the golden age of computers.
He lives in the right time I think. He's a renaissance man.
SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: An artist paints a painting and when he finishes he says, oh wow that's
a very nice painting I like how it turned out. And it's the same thing with programming.
Going from just a bunch of lines of code to a finished product that people can enjoy all
over the world. It feels really nice.
One of my favorite apps I've developed is a slide puzzle. You can play individually
and sure that's fun, but then you can challenge your friends to see who completes the puzzle
the fastest and it even has built in voice chat so you can talk with someone who's playing
the puzzle with you even if they're on the other side of the world.