CASPA 2019 Student Scholarship

The awards will be presented at the CASPA Annual Conference and Dinner Banquet on Oct. 19, 2019.  


CASPA 2019 Student Scholarship Recipients: 

Student

First Name

Student

Last Name

Student Chinese Name

Name of High School Attending

Winnie

Dong

董思怡

Evergreen Valley High School 

Ian

Chi

嵇在誼

Dougherty Valley High School

Eric

Wan

完加渝

Homestead High School

Andy

Li

李安迪

Lynbrook High School

Caitlin

Wang

王昱青

Monta Vista High School

Alice

Cheng

郑文杰

Monta Vista High School

Joy

Liu

刘嘉盈

Pioneer High School

Anna 

Liu

劉芳綺

Irvington High School

Adelaide

Bao

鲍子盈

Andrew P. Hill High School

Steven

Long

龙思琦

Monta Vista High School

Megan

Chen

陈怡静

Saratoga High School



Winnie Dong, 董思怡

Father: Jianguo Dong  

Mother: Xuemei Tao

Evergreen Valley High School  


 

My personal interests include public speaking, volunteer service, and STEM as a whole. I joined my school’s Speech & Debate team in freshmen year and I’ve been incredibly passionate about it ever since. I compete in parliamentary debate and am currently ranked top 10 in the nation. My partner and I have won numerous awards at tournaments such as being champions of the Santa Clara University Invitational and the Campolindo Parliamentary Tournament. We also consistently break to out-rounds at tournaments, earning semifinalists at the Stanford Speech & Debate Tournament and James Logan MLK Invitational. Even more importantly, I have gained numerous leadership skills having served as an administrative officer for all my four years in the club. As the current president of the Speech & Debate Club, I oversee our officer team, club finances, and tournament registration. With our club being primarily student-run and donation-based, I’ve learned how to effectively delegate work and reach out to other businesses or organizations for fundraising opportunities. My position has helped me to solve problems creatively and remain composed under high-pressure situations. Under my leadership, our club has been able to achieve many new accomplishments, such as hosting a League Tournament for the first time.  


I also developed an interest in computer science and volunteer in coding programs at the Boys & Girls Club of Silicon Valley. I volunteered for the Google CS First Program and was able to lead classes of underprivileged elementary-school students through a curriculum of programming on Scratch. It was immensely rewarding for me to guide the students in developing their critical thinking and problem-solving skills while they designing their own programs. Ultimately, I received the Most Dedicated Youth Volunteer Award from the Google Code Corps in recognition of my service. Furthermore, I also volunteer in the MIT App Inventor Program and help teach kids to design useful and fun mobile apps. Two of my students, Desteny and Ashley, won MIT’s App of the Month competition with an app designed to help parents know their children’s location and whether they are safe or not. I find it extremely fulfilling to see students learn to love coding and I’m grateful to be able to teach something that I’m passionate about to others.              


My goals include giving back to my community and increasing the accessibility of the STEM fields. As the child of a software engineer, I realize that I have unique advantages and opportunities to go into this industry. I strive to help students who don’t have these prior connections or support to learn more about coding. At the start of my volunteering program, I had students fill out a survey regarding how much knowledge and confidence they felt that they had in CS. A lot of students had the belief that learning about CS was too far out of reach for them. I was absolutely crushed by the knowledge that these elementary-school students had already felt as though they were incapable of learning about CS and were barred from having success in that field. I became determined to build up the students’ confidence and took it step by step. I had the student’s complete simple projects that could be finished in one session so they could look back and realize that they created something they can call their own. I am proud to say that the students truly changed by the end of the program and developed a sincere interest in coding. I had students who were incredibly excited to show off their programs to me and spent extra time customizing them or adding additional features. This experience has had a significant impact on me and motivates me to keep working towards my goals. In addition, my aspirations also include increasing the accessibility of Speech and Debate. I organized and held a showcase from our Speech and Debate team to raise money for SVUDL which works to support low-income high school students by providing them with resources. Overall, I strongly value volunteer service and strive to learn more about engineering while also guiding others.    



Ian Chi, 嵇在誼

Father: Shih-Chun Chi

Mother:

Dougherty Valley High School  

 


Physics holds a special place in my heart. I knew the universe worked. Ever since I understood that, I wanted to learn how it worked. It fascinated me how through keen observation, the simple language of logic, and the application of math had the potential to explain everything in existence.

   

I am fascinated by how a small equation in physics can be used to explain something incredibly grand. Physics requires me to think in ways no other class does. The formulas are tools and each question is a different blueprint. With only a few formulas physics can describe so much more. It’s truly a beautiful thing.  

 

Not only does physics explain things that are universal, it also helps me in everyday life too. Without fail, I use my knowledge of physics every day. Just the other day at my job there was a doorstop that would not hold a door properly. In a world where I did not know about physics I probably would’ve resorted to what a normal person would do: flip the doorstop over. Unfortunately, the doorstop was already dusty and old on both sides. With my knowledge of basic friction I knew that instead of jamming the door stop further into the door mindlessly, I needed to push the door stop further underneath the door. I pulled on the wedged side downward letting the doorstop come in contact with the door at a steeper angle. This worked wonders and the door never slipped on me again.    


Through its endless practicality and magnificent simplicity, physics has created a gateway to wonder for me and I truly hope to be able to pursue it in the future.    



Eric Wan, 完加渝

Father: Lixiang Wan

Mother: Fang Jiang

Homestead High School      



When I was in middle school, I opened World of Warcraft for the first time. The trailer seemed promising so I decided to check it out. The game caught my eye within minutes of starting. As I continued my virtual adventure, my interest in the game grew. Being able to explore a massive world with millions of others whispered of glory. Accomplishing quests, slaying epic monsters and becoming a legendary hero was every child’s fantasy.  


It wasn’t a surprise. Up until that point, the only games I had played were mobile games, simplistic in nature. On the other hand, World of Warcraft was a massive open world rpg with an intricate plot and stunning graphics. The complexity of this game stunned me and I was instantly enamored with it. The amount of thought the developers put into worldbuilding the continent of Azeroth made for a satisfying journey at the end.  


I had initially been surprised that it was even possible for such an advanced game to exist on technology. However, later on I learned about Skyrim and Fallout 4 and I came to the realization that World of Warcraft was not one of a kind. A little more digging led to my first true encounter with code.  


My father was an engineer so the term itself wasn’t foreign to me. Yet when I stared at the java code behind Minesweeper, it made my head spin in circles. It was like staring at an entirely different language! That was because it was. Java was just like any other language out there, but whereas conventional language enables interaction between people, code promotes communication with computers. A language of code was just as complicated as any other language out there. This was something I came to understand as I took my Intro to Programming class in my freshman year of high school.  


Taking that class allowed me to look over code from a comprehensive perspective, giving me a newfound appreciation. It also sparked my interest in coding ing general.    


Creating code was a rollercoaster of emotions. There was this frustration of running into an endless loop of bugs yet there was also an undeniable sense of satisfaction at overcoming this obstacle.  


To further my coding experience, I traveled to China to intern in the Goldisc Medical company. There I expanded upon my java knowledge, explored HTML and learned how to work with MySQL. I collaborated with another intern to create a website template for the company.  


These opportunities confirmed my goal. Coding is the path that I wish to pursue for life. Sure, it may be challenging and time consuming, but at least I won’t go hungry.    




Andy Li, 李安迪

Father: Bo Li

Mother: Manling Yang

Lynbrook High School    



As a child, I have always admired the human language, not in its diction or in its syntax, but in its tone. Furthermore, I did not appreciate tone that is produced through writing, but the tone that resides in your voice. I developed an interest in public speaking.  


Four years ago, I joined a nonprofit organization known as Silicon Valley Youth (SVY), as a student to take a public speaking course. It was a hard task originally. I have always been relatively shy. Greeting strangers was a tall order, being with strangers felt extremely uncomfortable, and speaking in front of a large audience made me nervous. Yet, after a few sessions of class, I gradually gained more confidence and developed proficiency in enunciation. Beyond that, it taught me aspects of public speaking that I never acknowledged before like gestures, body language, and eye contact. The fact that your actions can reflect tones that your voice cannot was an amazing revelation. The class helped me so much that I decided to volunteer as a teacher.    


Then, I progressed from student to teacher. My first semester as a teacher was beyond what I expected. I spent hours planning curriculum, explaining homework to the students, preparing slides and even readying myself for each class. That was my first experience as a teacher. It was a complete change in perspective to that of a student. Although, it was initially difficult to adjust and adapt, being a student a few months ago allowed me to understand my students very well.    Since then, I have taught a large variety of students, from those who excel to those who struggle. The transformation I see in my students is astonishing. I have had abroad students who speak English as a second language; while they had trouble introducing themselves in the beginning, by the end of the semester they can successfully perform a speech with proper rhetoric and even use their unique accent to add some flair to their oration. I have had students who excel at speaking and pronouncing but lack the air of an orator. By the end of the class, they not only have improved on their eloquence, but also grasp the importance of gestures and body language. The growth I see and the connections I make inspire me to continue teaching.    


Now with over three years of teaching experience and as the new Vice President of Public Speaking, I expanded the department from two classes to five, with each class having a teacher and a teacher assistant. Helping the organization extend its influence, teacher count increased from two to 49 while student count increased to ten times its initial number. As the Vice President, I train the TAs to be teachers, coordinate class schedules to minimize conflict, and review all the classes to ensure quality. Furthermore, all the funds and payments we receive are donated to underprivileged areas like East Palo Alto and South San Jose. We alongside the other departments (math, humanities, science, etc.) have raised a total of $120,000 in the past three years. The overall experience has been very rewarding for me. In fact, the public speaking skills I gained over the years allowed me to succeed in my high school campaign, leading to my assumption as ASB Vice President.      


A simple interest evolved into an opportunity to educate and to donate. It not only helped those around me but aided me in self-growth and knowledge. However, there is still much to do and much to explore. For SVY, a goal of mine would be to train some of our students, such that SVY can create our own debate team to fight in Speech and Debate competitions. The first steps have been taken and the officers are currently discussing the feasibility of such a proposition. Beyond this, some personal goals are to improve upon my own public speaking ability and to recognize other mediums of tone. As of now, while I have a better grasp of tone vocally, I have difficulty portraying and displaying it through my writing. There is still much to learn, but I am extremely eager and excited for the process.      



Caitlin Wang, 王昱青

Father: Rongping Wang

Mother: Meng Cai

Monta Vista High School  



My creative pastimes of sketching, sculpting, and making origami allow me to explore my questions and curiosities. Physicist turned origami expert, Robert Lang says, “...as weird and surprising as it may sound, origami may someday even save a life.” Lang is not exaggerating; he has worked on projects such as more efficient air bags and medical instrument pouches. Lang proves there are countless ways to view the problems and questions we encounter as long as we are willing to explore the unknown.    


Recently I spoke with an engineer from the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, who came to give a talk about mechanical engineering at my school. After his presentation, I was curious about the future of the field, and I approached him to ask him about what topics he thought would be most important in the future of mechanical engineering. He immediately answered my question by citing one of my main areas of interest: wind energy. I was thrilled and inspired to hear this prediction.  


One environmental concern is carbon emissions from nonrenewable energy sources like coal and oil. We have yet to explore many of the engineering solutions available, such as wind power. I’ve studied wind power in Science Olympiad for two years, and part of my exploration included building a small functioning wind turbine model. I 3D-printed prototypes, ran tests, and concluded that the most efficient design was a single blade turbine with a counterweight on the opposite side of the rotor. Wind turbines are currently three-bladed only for aesthetic reasons. I am currently studying experimental design as part of my Science Olympiad team and am inspired to learn more about how mechanical engineering innovations will shape the world in the upcoming years.  


Last summer at COSMOS, I was introduced to research and presentation techniques during the physics and engineering course I attended. Our final assignment was to conduct a research project and prepare a visual presentation. My project explored piezoelectricity, a relationship between electricity and mechanical stress. Piezoelectricity was interesting, but also an entirely unfamiliar topic that required preliminary research on my part. At UC Davis’s Shields Library, I found two books that I spent hours reading: Walter G. Cady’s Piezoelectricity: An Introduction to the Theory and Applications of Electromechanical Phenomena in Crystals, and Takurō Ikeda’s Fundamentals of Piezoelectricity. The scientists who pioneered the path of piezoelectricity were both creative and undaunted, and they established themselves as intellectual explorers. As I learned more about their piezoelectric experiments, I dreamed of conducting my own experiments and making discoveries.  


This summer, I interned at an Ultrafast Nano-Optics Lab at UC Berkeley. I worked with several researchers on a deep learning program, which required me to learn Python programming to understand. It was difficult at first to keep track of many different procedures that I was taught just over the course of a few days. Later, I came up with unique ideas to contribute to the lab; e.g. I leveraged the technology I learned in my high school photography class and applied them to the research. They turned out to be very effective and impressed the other researchers. This entire experience made me proud of myself, because it was the first time for me to experience a real work environment, especially one that was so academically challenging and at the frontier of scientific discovery. In the end, the experience was rewarding, and my contributions are acknowledged in a research paper submitted to “Nature” for publication.  


During my internship, I developed a curiosity and appreciation for research, especially the process of trial and error. As Thomas Alva Edison once famously said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work.” These are words that inspire me as I commit to my love of science and engineering and aim to learn more about being a researcher in college. Engineering has profound potential when connected with other disciplines, and I hope to explore that more as I work to find sustainable and efficient solutions to environmental issues.      




Alice Cheng, 郑文杰

Father: Lik Cheng

Mother: Ling Yu

Monta Vista High School  



At the start of my sophomore year, I attended a COSMOS summer program in mathematics at the University of California, Davis. Going into the program, I was comfortable with numerous math concepts but had little knowledge of how mathematics could be applied to real-world problems. However, the course and guest lecturers opened my eyes to new concepts, such as using knot theory to model DNA knotting patterns, and using graph theory to study topology. This experience sparked my desire to use mathematical computer modeling to simulate human biological systems, such as the nervous system. In AP Computer Science A, I worked on a project where we modeled animations and avatars and their interactions, and I immediately imagined possibilities such as virtual frog dissection.    


When I first learned about Alzheimer’s disease, I was shocked at how a person could be normal one day and deteriorate so quickly the next. One moment they’d be completely normal, talking and joking with everyone, and before I knew it, they would be in a daze, wondering who everyone was. After seeing the impact the illness had on affected families, I was not only curious about how the disease developed, but a number of other questions flooded my mind. How many people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s annually? What are the current funding levels for research on Alzheimer’s? How quickly does the disease progress? Could the cause be something simple that we overlook, such as diet? Could there be an easy, cost-effective treatment or alteration in lifestyle that would prevent this illness? It was then that I made the connection between medicine and statistics, realizing that data can inform public policy in order to better people’s lives and prevent devastating situations like this.    


Not only do I hope to learn statistical techniques that can be used to impact social policies, an area I am unfamiliar with, but I hope to experience work that will foster my ability to work in a team and boost my understanding of how quantitative data is collected, analyzed, interpreted, and communicated. Furthermore, I’d like to develop better critical thinking and analysis skills. As a future researcher, these skills are essential to developing innovative solutions and viewing problems from different angles. I have a passion to learn and take my experiences to create new knowledge to further society’s development.    



Joy Liu, 刘嘉盈

Father: Chao Liu

Mother: Liu Yang

Pioneer High School      



“Remember Joy, the sky is your limit. We need more women in the world like you.” These words came from Ms. Borges, my fifth-grade teacher, as she kneeled down, looked directly into my innocent soul, and placed these great expectations on me. I did not think much about those words until high school when I realized the prevalence of gender expectations. I’ve heard stories from my brother about the disheartening gender ratio in his college classes, but I never imagined my classes in high school would be even worse. My AP Comp Sci class last year had just four girls amongst fifty students. My AP Chemistry class this year is about one-thirds female. In those classes, it was an “upset” when a girl set the curve on an exam, and many guys would loudly joke about getting “beat by a girl,” as if that was a shameful event.    


I will never let others dissuade me from pursuing my dreams, but more importantly, I hope to lead by example and break gender stereotypes. For the past few months, I’ve been planning and organizing PixelHacks 3, an all-female high school hackathon (www.pixelhacks.com). As part of the Marketing and Outreach team, I make promotional materials to maximize turnout, manage all social media accounts, and respond to email inquiries. This year, we received over 300 applications, and I spent a large part of my winter break helping the Operations team read applications and verify waivers. By providing a collaborative environment, our goal is to encourage young women to have the tenacity to pursue a career in the male-dominated tech industry.    


During my lifetime, I yearn for the end of systemic gender discrimination and the shattering of the glass ceiling, because no one should be discouraged and rejected because of their identity.      



Anna Liu, 劉芳綺

Father: Henry Liu

Mother: Angel Cheng

Irvington High School    



Adults often view kids as naughty, stubborn, and irresponsible, but I’ve always felt a certain mesmerizing attraction towards children. Their bright smiles would often make my day and I especially love their pure, innocent personalities. It was this that led me to join my school’s Children’s Objective Reinforcement Education Club, eager for a prospect to simply interact with elementary school students.


After my first few interactions with the kids, I noticed that they tend to lose interest in their homework within half an hour. They become bored and unmotivated to finish their work, egardless of my guidance and constant encouragement. Over time, I realized that this is a direct result of the conventional way teachers structure their lectures and create their schoolwork, essentially making lessons mundane for students. From then on, I felt an urgency to address this problem and began searching for organizations that focused on providing quality education through creative and enjoyable means.


In my sophomore year, I found just this. Connexpedition, a summer program where volunteers travel to Taiwan to teach English to underperforming children, had a vision aligned perfectly with mine. The four months leading up to the camp, I attended regular trainings to plan original and creative classes. There, I integrated a variety of content-related games and fun projects into my lesson plans to avoid the traditional monotonous lectures. In order to adequately prepare to lead hands-on activities, I performed each of them and thoroughly familiarized myself with every single step, every little bit of material, and every individual process involved. Thus, by the time June rolled around, I was all set to put my unique products to the test.


My first interaction with my seventh grade students involved having them play a “beach ball name game.” In this game, they stand up to throw a beach ball around the classroom to their peers, learning names through this rather than simply through reciting. This short activity gives them a chance to move around, release excess energy, and have some fun all while getting to know their classmates better. The students all enjoyed this delightful icebreaker to calm their jittery nerves and I grinned seeing their smiles gradually turn into exuberant laughter.


As the days progress, I begin to see small sparks of interest in learning blossom in them, especially during my English lessons, initially their least favorite class. As I incorporate vocabulary games into lectures, these become intertwined and students’ excited, vibrant energy during activities gradually transfer over to lectures. They become more willing to participate, more confident to ask questions, and most importantly, more excited to learn about the English language.


Although every student comes from a different background with varying skills, I notice that as each one of them gets progressively comfortable with the way I structure lessons, their attention span increases and they engage more with classwork and discussions. Having the opportunity to see my students grow from being shy, unmotivated kids to becoming independent, driven individuals has allowed me to realize that even slightly tweaking teaching methods can come a long way in transforming a student’s overall perspective on learning.


Seeing my students enjoy lessons so much more through this experience gave me motivation to continue nurturing their newfound passion for learning. Over the course of my senior year, I will engage in weekly online lessons with my kids to review and refresh concepts I had taught during the camp. This will give my students a chance to continue learning English, while also presenting to me yet another opportunity for growth. Although coming up with appropriate games and activities with my students 6,500 miles away will definitely be a challenge, I’m excited to continue exploring this journey with them. In college, I will start a club or organization to continue pursuing my interest to make classes more engaging and fun. School should be a place where students discover the joys of learning, somewhere they can pursue their passions, rather than a place they go simply because they are forced to. I’ve only helped 20 students discover their passion for learning so far, but I know that there's more work waiting to be done.      




Adelaide Bao,鲍子盈

Father: MinQi Bao

Mother: Jing Jin

Andrew P. Hill High School    



“I knew I was hooked.” There are only a few subjects to which I can give this compliment to. However, HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America), history, and TOK (Theory of Knowledge) are among these few.  


HOSA is a club on my school’s campus dedicated to giving students the opportunity to compete in health-related competitions in Sacramento, Anaheim, and Long Beach. My school is largely low-income, with 60% of the population economically disadvantaged. As a result, unlike the other chapters of HOSA, my chapter makes sure that students are able to go to these competitions, free of charge, with transportation and hotel fees covered.  


For me, participating in HOSA competitions led to my first-time leaving home. I learned to manage my spending and make my own decisions. I also learned crucial skills, such as self-studying, teamwork, and sportsmanship. In addition to life skills, I learned that my interests lie in the field of public health. When I came back home, I realized something: I wanted to give back and allow others at my school to experience HOSA’s competitions. I became a HOSA officer the following year. Knowing that we had to raise $10,000 for 80 students in 7 months, the officer board and I became extremely close. We coordinated to run concessions at Stanford University and contacted businesses to fundraise, held weekly meetings, hosted study sessions, and bought books to help members study. In the end, we fundraised more than $10,000 – enough to bring more than 80 students to Sacramento to compete over four days. This accomplishment has impacted me greatly and has led to me becoming the president of my HOSA chapter this year. These accomplishments have also made me realize that both managing a team and working towards a goal are extremely fulfilling for me and have inspired me to consider management in public health as a career.  


On the other hand, my journey to discovering my interests in history and TOK have been different. My first exposure to history was through AP World History (WHAP) and my first exposure to TOK was through the IB (International Baccalaureate) Diploma Program at my school.  Through AP World History (WHAP), I have found out that I enjoy learning about how relevant history is to today. The similarities between the past and present are particularly interesting to me because they show that, although society believes it has evolved, history repeats itself and that we can still learn a lot from the past. Being able to communicate effectively through WHAP has also shown me that I value being able to express my opinion, leading me to pursue a career path that allows me to communicate with others frequently. My experience in WHAP has also helped me earn a 4 on the AP World History test and pursue IB History, which I will be tested in next year. Through Theory of Knowledge (TOK), I have learned the importance and joys of epistemology, and I believe that thinking critically can make a greater impact on society. TOK has taught me that I enjoy developing my own ideas by questioning the world through different lenses. What I have experienced in TOK is different from any other class I’ve attended. In a traditional class such as calculus or English, we are expected to listen to lectures and memorize concepts without questioning. However, in TOK, we are encouraged to look beyond our textbooks and to understand that nothing is black and white. Therefore, TOK has broadened my world view and made me realize that I want a career that allows me to help society by questioning the world. Lastly, my experiences in TOK have helped me become a better problem solver. I applied this skill to mentoring elementary students at Daniel Lairon Elementary School and received a Certification of Recognition by the California Legislature Assembly.  


HOSA, history, and TOK have intensified my interests in pursuing a career that furthers society and allows interaction with the community. A career path I see that involves what I enjoyed from HOSA, history, and TOK is public health. Public health involves communication, management, relating the past to today, and questioning the world. For instance, by communicating and managing, I would be able to help the government factor in what the public needs. TOK and history are also very important in public health because it isn’t always easy to make the “right” decisions, such as determining who to save first in an epidemic. Thus, my interests and accomplishments have shaped who I am and what I want to achieve in the future.    




Steven Long, 龙思琦

Father: Hai Long

Mother: Jie Zhang

Monta Vista High School    



Spending my whole life in Silicon Valley has exposed me to the vast realm of technology, opening my eyes to the wide-ranging solutions that engineering offers for society’s pressing issues. Growing up, I naturally developed a passion for many engineering topics from the numerous tech giants and hot start-ups around me. Cutting-edge advancements made possible by technology, such autonomous cars and new methods of healthcare have created unimaginable possibilities that revolutionize the way we live. Witnessing technology’s astounding impacts in research and industry has inspired me to pursue topics in engineering and computing.    


I believe that engineering is a platform for critical thinking and innovating effective solutions for various problems, ultimately pushing the realms of possibility further. My relevant coursework in school has prepared me with the practical and theoretical knowledge to develop a deeper foundation for engineering. Engineering undoubtedly requires advanced applications of both physics and mathematics, and these fundamentals of engineering have been introduced to me through AP Calculus, AP Statistics, and multivariable calculus classes that I have taken. A more enriched understanding of math and physics provides me with insight on how to use reasoning and analytical skills to solve problems in engineering. More specialized classes that I have taken helped me establish even stronger fundamentals of engineering. AP Computer Science allowed me to grasp the wide variety of computations and algorithms to solve problems and build projects. The project-based learning style included working on a program that parsed and analyzed poverty data, identifying trends and anomalies. Through a class called Principles of Engineering, I applied physics concepts to bulid various projects, including a solar-powered car and a truss bridge. Furthermore, I enrolled in Linux and Unix class at local community college to expand my understanding of computer engineering, focusing on the intricacies of operating systems and how a computer carries out its tasks. Together, I believe my diversified coursework has equipped me with the necessary footing in the world of engineering.  


My fascination with engineering extends outside the classroom, as I take part in my school’s FIRST Robotics Competition team as the Director of Software Engineering. My responsibilities include wiring, programming, and testing a robot each year. Throughout the years, I have developed new mathematical algorithms as well as my expertise with electrical systems, as well as experience working in a professional manner by managing a team. I was also selected to attend the Da Vinci Engineering Enrichment Program at the University of Toronto, where I took classes in physics and engineering while also participating in challenging design projects. With a group, I successfully designed, programmed, and tested a self driving car in a maze. I was also a research assistant at the UC Santa Cruz, studying the implementation of reinforcement learning on manufacturing. Using various learning libraries and techniques, I helped with building a simulation of a factory and then applying those reinforcement learning techniques to achieve optimal factory performance. I was heavily inspired and guided by David Silver’s lecture series on reinforcement learning and the mathematics behind building algorithms.    


The vast field of engineering sincerely interests me because I recognize its pertinence to the real world. Everything around me is made possible by a successful application of engineering to solve an issue. I hope that I can carry on this mindset by becoming an engineer and exploring topics such as robotics and machine intelligence, striving to solve problems with cutting-edge thinking.          




Megan Chen, 陈怡静

Father: Zhengming Chen

Mother: Meijuan Chen

Saratoga High School      



I have always had a strong attraction to mystery and puzzle-related logic, so I took a Cryptology course the summer before eighth grade, and I enjoyed it so much that I took the Advanced course two years later. I took a logic course under the same program (CTY), and also took a Forensics course at Foothill College the summer before freshman year. I’ve always been interested in detective and secret agent shows, and taking these three classes developed my observation skills, my mental capacity, and most importantly my desire to become a secret agent. In all honesty, taking these courses sparked an interest in studying Cyber security, which is why one of the majors I’m planning on applying for is Data Science.    


I’ve been taking art classes since I was eight, and I initially started just because my brother was taking them, and it was one of those classes like piano where “all the kids are doing it” so I had to as well. However, as soon as people reached the age where they stopped taking art classes, I begged my mom to let me continue art. I was constantly doodling and drawing comics in my free time, and stealing my sister’s art supplies to make clay sculptures and origami cranes. My dresser is littered with old art projects, like clay lamps or shoes, and origami Pikachus and snowflakes, and just about every room in my house has an old painting or drawing of mine. In high school, I used art to let out some of the pressure I was starting to feel from school, which was very clear in some of my drawings. Art has surrounded me for the entirety of my short life, and I can’t imagine a time when I won’t be doing something artistic in my free time. Having taken art lessons gives me a lot of opportunities, like designing websites, doing graphic design for newspaper, helping with homecoming decorations, making Favicons for websites, and just being able to express my emotions in a physical manner anytime I want.  


I also did dance throughout middle and high school. Dancing was important to me not just because I enjoyed it, but because I continued to work hard at it even after acknowledging the fact that I was terrible. I constantly forget the moves, I couldn’t even perform some of the spins and jumps, and I had to wait a couple years to be decent enough to perform, but I never quit until it became a schedule conflict. I know it sounds kind of sad to say that something is important to me because I’m bad at it, but dancing really showed me that I had the ability to persevere through anything no matter how embarrassing it was, and I wouldn’t back down from a challenge.  


Although I have a strong interest in art and cyber security, participating in FBLA and working at a medical center both got me interested in the world of business, and I started realizing that business skills are fluid and applicable to almost every aspect of life. For example, my dad owns a small business, and his moral “Communication is Key,” has been deeply ingrained in me since I was a child; it’s not only his most important business skill, but it’s one of the most important skills in my daily life as well.  


Accordingly, my dream school is USC Iovine and Young (Business, Technology, Innovation), since it combines elements of art and engineering, while also putting emphasis on design and creativity. I’ve honestly always found it hard to pick between these three areas, and it’s incredibly rare to see three drastically different fields of study in a single program, so I know this program would be perfect for me.  


As I hope I showed through this essay, my greatest strengths lie in my creativity and flexibility. I’m always looking for creative opportunities: I’ve painted half the things I own by now, from shoes, to binders, to water bottles; my junior year final project for English was a parody music video with tons of word play (all related to the book of course), and I’m now trying to teach myself video and graphic editing. I’m able to quickly adapt to new situations, and to socialize with many different types of people. At every summer camp I’ve been to, I’ve always been able to develop a close-knit group of friends, and they always have drastically different personalities. Every time I travel with my family, I’m always the first to get used to the environment, the first to get rid of jetlag, and the best at directions. I believe that these qualities will drive me to accomplish anything I seek, and make me a great CASPA scholarship candidate.