Natasha Dardashti staff writer
From assisting the computer science class to entering 24-hour competitions, senior Andrew Mokhtarzadeh has touched base with every opportunity to learn programming since the ninth grade.
In his freshman year, Mokhtarzadeh joined the school’s fledgling Introduction to Coding class to expand on his childhood interest in computers. There, he learned the basics of HTML coding, which kickstarted his love for the subject.
“Not only did I learn basic programming in my Intro to Coding class, I learned how to search for new things that I didn’t know before,” Mokhtarzadeh said. “This freshman class really inspired me to learn more on my own. It was enough to get me started on [being interested] in coding for the past four years.”
Since taking his first coding class, Mokhtarzadeh has taken the initiative to teach himself more about different coding languages in his free time. When he isn’t expanding his coding knowledge on his own, however, Mokhtarzadeh attends 24-hour coding conventions known as Hackathons. During these Hackathons, a task is given to teams of coders who have the duration of the convention to program the best piece of software or hardware.
“A lot of people don’t sleep in these 24 hours,” Mokhtarzadeh said. “I haven’t been able to pull that off, but I envy those who can.”
Mokhtarzadeh’s most memorable experience at a Hackathon was during the October 2016 Hacktoberfest. For the first 12 hours, he and his team were lost on what to build. As soon as it was lunchtime, however, his team was struck with inspiration.
“The staff members who were at the event had brought Subway sandwiches for lunch, and they were in these huge cardboard boxes,” Mokhtarzadeh said. “And as they laid these boxes on the table, my teammates and I looked at each other and ideas just hit.”
The team of five built an interactive game pad made of cardboard that was operated with foot pedals. The game consisted of moving a cube before it was hit by enemy cubes. As the game progressed, it would get more difficult.
“That is my favorite project I’ve ever done with coding. Inspiration just came to us and we improvised right on the spot,” Mokhtarzadeh said.
Besides attending Hackathons, Mokhtarzadeh also expands his programming abilities by taking on jobs outside of high school. During the summer of his junior year, he was accepted for an internship at the Beverly Hilton.
“The biggest task that I undertook was setting up an entire system for the employee entrances so that whenever employees opened doors with their key cards, it would be monitored by a program,” Mokhtarzadeh said.
In sophomore year, Mokhtarzadeh expressed interest in assisting the computer science classes teacher Ted Yoo. He first worked in the Introduction to Coding class when he was a junior, then switched to working in the AP Computer Science class as a senior.
“He likes to share his expertise in many fields. Programming happens to be one of the fields in which he has aptitude,” Yoo said.
“Because he already took the class and he knows the course content well, he can effectively lend a hand to his peers,” senior Samantha Boudaie, who is enrolled in AP Computer Science, said.
His affinity for creativity is seemingly contradictory to the straightforwardness of coding. However, it is not the candidness of programming that Mokhtarzadeh likes, but the possibilities that arise from it.
“Coding isn’t different from the impossible,” Mokhtarzadeh said. “I like to program because I like to create things that weren’t there before. It’s making the impossible happen.”
Mokhtarzadeh’s combination of creativity and coding carries into his love for music, as well. Senior year marks his second year singing in Madrigals.
“It’s amazing to me that something so emotionally deep like music can actually have a formula set to it, and understanding how people do something like that on a mathematical level is really interesting to me,” Mokhtarzadeh said. “I think that programming itself can be beautiful, like art. Sometimes you need that creative side to solve problems you encounter when you code.”
To Mokhtarzadeh, programming represents more than just math. Throughout his years spent learning computer science, Mokhtarzadeh learned that the world can be bettered through advanced programming, and he wishes to be a part of it.
“Coding is the future. There is no subject in the world that can’t be improved upon with programming,” Mokhtarzadeh said. “For example, biology, the study of life, may seem like the furthest thing from a computer, but when you’re doing things such as surgery, a steady hand is no match for something that is literally controlled by numbers.”