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UBC Local Hack Day 2016

I haven't posted in a while because I have been working my bum off to organize a 12 hour mini-hackathon for CS students at UBC. I'm so proud to say that we have successfully partnered up with not only Major League Hacking & GitHub, but also our Computer Science Department and our Computer Science Student Society to make this event possible. It's definitely been difficult working on all the logistics portion of the hackathon, along with the website, posters etc. But we did it! We published our website and created a facebook page for the event on December 3rd. Check it out here.

Organizing this hackathon was no easy task. We had to register the event with venues and partners all within a month. The trickiest part is definitely the fact that I organized this whole event alone with my one partner in crime, Kristen. It took a lot of determination and guts for us to take on a project with such time constraint. We went from having never organized a hackathon, to sending endless emails to different company sponsors, food caterers, mentors and workshop hosts etc.  We were constantly fueling each others' motivation. We took on the challenge to organize the event and do all the graphics and web designs on our own as we both enjoy front end / UI. However, it was time-consuming to say the least, especially since this was all during midterms season. 

I am so proud of this hackathon and how it all came together. We learnt so much in the process and it would mean the world to us if you came as well! Make sure to sign up at: http://ubchacks.me or even just share the event with your friends.

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you on December 3rd! :)

p.s. Check out our cool poster by clicking here!

Full Indie Summit

On Saturday, I went to my first Full Indie Summit with UBC’s AMS Game Development Association

Prior to going to the event, I was JUST starting off with game dev, how to use Unity & C# etc. I’ll admit that I don’t play as many games as I should (my mom would disagree but you know what I mean, everyone at the summit knew every game in the market, and there was me- I didn’t even know what Firewatch was). I definitely felt intimidated but was only later on greeted with wonderfully kind faces and suddenly, I felt like I was part of something, and that felt great.

The full list of speakers are listed here. but I particularly enjoyed Kevin Regamey’s (Power Up Audio) talk. He started the whole summit, but he left the bar of standards so high that I was simply in awe. His talk was powerful and engaging. As a noobie game dev, I had no idea how great of an impact audio can have on a game but now, I definitely have a better idea of it. Seriously, when the summit video gets released on youtube, you need to check out his talk. He is a talented speaker with great stage presence. 

I also loved Marc ten Bosch’s (Miegakure) presentation. Here is a video of what he roughly spoke about. The video is needed simply because the 4th dimension is incredibly intriguing coming Bosch. But from me, I can only describe it as pure magic. 

Lastly, I enjoyed Nels Anderson’s talk on Firewatch. He was a game designer of Campo Santo’s Firewatch. Let me tell you, I couldn’t stop googling and watching videos of Firewatch ever since I stepped out of that summit. The game is beautiful and I can’t believe I have never even heard of it before. The moment I have some more free time, I will make buying & playing Firewatch my top priority. 

The talks were then followed by some amazing game demos, free food & free booze (Ah that underage life). I’m so glad I was introduced to Vancouver’s wonderful indie game dev scene and I can’t wait to go back next time. I am now more excited than ever to work on my own game! :)

Hackathon Sticker Culture

If you have ever been to a hackathon, or any tech-related event, you would have experienced being greeted by a variation of different laptops- all covered in the same familiar looking stickers. I guess you could say it’s the influential hacker culture that made me wrap my macbook up too. I’ll talk about my own stickers some other time, but here is a guide to knowing everything about a hacker, just by catching a glimpse of their laptop shells.

 

The “Typical Tech Geek” 

  • This laptop is usually covered with stickers from head to toe. It’s clear that this person doesn’t host auditions for their stickers because every sticker makes the cut. There could be your typical Chrome and GitHub sticker, but right beside it, is a sticker peeled off an old cereal box. However, tech geeks comes in all shapes and forms. Some of them have their stickers nicely aligned with equal spacing in between. On other hand, some slam those stickers on like they’re free (well I guess they are), regardless of whether they are upside down, or overlapping each other.

 

The “Hackathon Enthusiast” 

  • This person could be hard to differentiate from the regular tech geeks- to a non hacker. This person’s sticker arrangement doesn’t really matter for as long as they have every hackathon’s signature sticker on their laptop. This could be anything from the “Hack the North” sticker or even better, the “I Demoed” MLH stickers. On the rare occasion, they might even let “Soylent” slide into the mix. This particular sticker is to inform you that this person is not here to play, they won’t be eating until that DevPost submission deadline has passed.

 

The “I’m New But Not After This Hacker”

  • We get it. It’s hard being a first time hacker AND be prepared for the laptop sticker judging panels. However, this person is grabbing swag from left to right, and the second they grab a seat, you can be rest assured that they will be sticking every sticker they just got, straight onto that laptop.

 

The “No Sticker Laptop”

  • I bet this person forgot that they are at a hackathon.

 

So there you go! That’s the official hackthon stickers guide. 

(But in all honesty, this blog post should not be taken seriously. Not putting stickers on your laptop is actually the smartest thing to do. Why would you buy a $1500 laptop just to have the beautiful casing covered ;). Right?)

Hack the North 2016

If you read my previous post about Toronto, you would have known that I may or may not have skipped school this past weekend to go to Hack the North, Canada's largest hackathon. But if you haven't, then you should go read it here!

Skipping class on my second week of school was definitely nerve-racking, but how could I pass up a free trip to Toronto / Waterloo and the opportunity to attend a hackathon that I have heard nothing but amazing things about. Therefore, I made my way to Waterloo on Friday night, with my laptop fully charged, and prepared myself for 36 hours of hacking.

I met my team through Facebook and in hindsight, I am so glad we did! They are all from Waterloo and they are so so so nice. We all have the same kind of humour, so we all pretty much clicked the second we met. After spending 36 hours with them, we bonded so well as a team that we figured even if we didn't win, we won friendship. Haha, okay that's way to cheesy, but you know what I mean.

Prior to attending Hack the North, I thought nwHacks- which I attended in February was HUGE. However, this hackathon was at least twice that size, with a much larger (and in my opinion, more beautiful, but don't tell anyone I said that) building- E5 to work in and there was free food up for grabs all the time (pasta, beaver tails, ice cream, DIY cottoncandy, popcorn etc). Also, there were tons of booths with different sponsors to chat with throughout the night. There was also a photobooth and claw machine for free prizes! There was pretty much always something to do if you were taking a break- tech talks, demos, shirt painting stations and even air mattresses, blankets & showers! (I am not usually one to sleep on air mattresses, especially since I am a clean freak, but I was so tired I couldn't resist - they were very comfy). 

In addition to the neverending list of activities they offered, Waterloo also had lots to offer. My teammates showed me around the plaza, their residences, the little museum etc. We squeezed in some great walks & talks during our down time!

Okay, now let's move on to the actual hacking! Brainstorming and getting everyone to agree on an idea took us a very long time. Therefore, even when we finally agreed on creating a Pebble smartwatch app for tracking user location & converting restaurant currency to the user's desired currency, we already felt super behind in the whole hacking timeline. We were all so excited to do our first hardware hack together, but at the same time, things just weren't quite working out for us on the first night. Both our front end and backend were experiencing lots of trouble. We couldn't even get anything to display on the smartwatch by the end of the night. At that point, we all just silently agreed to give up on our hack, as things just weren't looking great. We slept through the night and I finally woke up at 7am.

I freaked out when I woke up because despite knowing that we probably couldn't finish our hack, deep down, I still really wanted to at least submit something. At that point, we had less than 2 hours before submissions were due. I woke everyone up and we all agreed to go all in during the last 2 hours. The second all of us plugged in our headphone, magic was created. It was crazy, we were all so well concentrated, and our brains just functioned so much better than the night before. The APIs (XE.com & zomato) were working seamlessly, our UI was working perfectly, and the backend connected everything & worked out without encountering too many problems. However, I must admit that we didn't actually finish everything at 9am, but we kept pushing and pushing. Since Devpost just happened to be experiencing technical difficulties, we managed to submit our project, right before the extended deadline. We then rushed to our demo and you could tell, we were all suppressing our nervousness while giving that talk. Thankfully, we had each other's back, and kept the whole presentation flowing. 

We walked out of the demo knowing that we tried our best and that was really all the mattered. We each exhaled a sigh of relief and headed to line up for food. While we were lining up, one of our teammates got a phone call from XE.com and was told that they had something for us. We literally screamed in the line. We knew we didn't get first place, but even an honourable mention would have made our day at that point. So we ran to their booth, where they told us we won second place for our use of XE.com's API! We were ecstatic! We then proceeded to take pictures, in which afterwards, they asked us if we wanted to pose with the drones that were going to be given out to the first place winners. We sensed something was up and suddenly, they told us that they were joking, and we actually won first place. We were screaming and jumping up and down. We looked around and we all knew how much we appreciated each other, and how grateful we were that we didn't give up and kept pushing through the project.

The sick drone we won after it surviving the ride from Waterloo to Vancouver!

The sick drone we won after it surviving the ride from Waterloo to Vancouver!

So to sum it up, Hack the North was a phenomenal experience where I met some of the best people ever & tons of like-minded computer geeks on the bus & plane. I also learnt how important a positive mindset is during hackathons because it might just be the one thing that leads you to your victory. Watch out, Hack the North 2017, I'm coming back for you!

Read more about Pubble here: http://devpost.com/software/pubble

Toronto

Hey everyone! I went to Hack the North at the University of Waterloo over the past weekend. Since I was missing school on Friday because of it anyway, I decided to just head to Toronto early, and do a little 24 hours in Toronto adventure with my best friend.

Travelling with my best friend over the past summer has really made me an expert at rushing and visiting tourist attractions in half the amount of time regular people do. However, I honestly don't mind it. I find more often than not, I prefer visiting and exploring more places, compared to visiting less spots, but stay at each for a longer duration. Therefore, here is everything I did in Toronto with 24 hours (3pm Thursday - 3pm Friday).

1 ) Took the Union Pearson Express from the Airport to check in at our hotel

2) Took the streetcar, train, GO train, GO bus & the taxi, all just to get to Niagara falls, the view was stunning and Clifton Hill is absolutely gorgeous at night

3) Went around Union Station for a little midnight adventure

4) Snatched pictures with the CN tower at night

5) Visited Nathan Phillips Square

6) Did a 2 hour Ryerson University Campus tour (My friend was interested in one of their programs)

7) Checked out Eaton Center

8) Walked all along Yonge-Dundas Square (THIS PLACE IS BEAUTIFUL, I imagine New York's Time Square to be exactly like it <3)

9) Ate delicious sushi all you can eat at Spring Sushi @ Yonge-Dundas

10) Walked from Yonge-Dundas to the Art Gallery and then to Roy Thomson Hall, to check out the Toronto International Film Festival

11) Ate a cheesecake at Uncle Testu's!

12) Walked to China town, walked all around the area surrounding Dundas & Spadina

13) Got bubble tea, Arctic Bites (Creamy ice cream rolls) & Krispy Kreme

14) Went back to the Toronto airport & made my way to Waterloo (View my next post to read about my trip to Waterloo!)

That sums up my 24 hours there! I absolutely loved the 6ix- until we meet again, Toronto!

Amazon

I was recently invited to mentor fellow students at Amazon Vancouver to give a talk about my experiences in the tech industry, as well as my thoughts on being a woman in engineering / computer science and here is my blog post about it!

At the start of the day, all the mentors showed up early, got our security badges and helped with welcoming the students in. It was crazy because I thought all the mentors would be around my age. However, turns out, most of them are industry professionals who work at Amazon (of course), Microsoft, SAP, Ladies Learning Code, etc. It was an honour to be at an event with so many inspiring woman in the field and I had a great time meeting and chatting with them.

We then had lightning talks based on varying subjects and moved on to little group discussions. Each group of students had their own mentors and they got the opportunity to ask about anything from applying into university, to the daily life of a software programmer. It was an incredibly gratifying discussion and I truly think they took away a lot from those talks (based on the reviews they gave back as well!). 

Again, mentoring at these events made me wish I knew about them when I was a bit younger so I could have attended them. However, it sure feels great being on the other side too! :) 

Group picture of all the lovely mentors

Group picture of all the lovely mentors

Thank you Amazon Vancouver for the invite, and for being wonderful hosts. Until next time!

( Interested and want to read more? Check out this blog post by Rebecca McKnight regarding the event! )

Review: UBC CPSC 210

I can't believe it's August 24th already. This summer has really flown by, but almost in a good way because I think I've achieved quite a bit over the past couple of months- finishing my internship, summer school, and all. So here I am with my CPSC 210 marks out, ready to give a review of the course.

CPSC 210 is a second year software construction course focusing on design, testing and debugging of software, using Java. Java is object-oriented programming, which moves us away from what we learnt in CPSC 110 (Racket). However, of course, the basics of programming remains. 

I went into this course having worked with OOP, did a couple Java online tutorials and started reading (started not finished haha) a Java book. I didn't prepare too much for the course, but I definitely think it was enough. Because of those tutorials and such, I had a good grasp of not only the syntax but the gist of how Classes, Objects & Methods interacted. That definitely made the course a lot easier to dive right into, especially for a summer class because of how accelerated it is. However, that being said, learning the basics of Java prior to the course is recommended, but not mandatory for success in the course.

For the summer session, we had about an assignment due roughly every 3 days and a lab due every other day. We also had a midterm 2 weeks into the course, a project due about 2 weeks after that and finally, we had our final exam a month after the course started. It's definitely a packed schedule. However, for some reason, it didn't stress me out. I found myself still being able to go to work and hang out with friends without much trouble as the labs and assignments were straightforward as long as you fully knew what you were doing. In addition, the midterm and final were made to be tricky but again, super manageable. Despite us having very little time to work on the 2 phases of the final project- an Android app, it was really fun and for the most part, I was able to finish each phase within one day (a long day but one day nonetheless). Because of that, I found myself truly enjoying the course a lot and I'm almost sad that I didn't take it during the fall because then I could have taken it for longer period of time.

So that's pretty much my review on the course. I love Java as a language and therefore thoroughly enjoyed the course. If you took CPSC 110 and are now contemplating taking 210, you should definitely take it, I promise it's a ton of fun!

 

Alberta

I recently went to Alberta to visit my best friend who is currently working at the Fairmont Hotel @ Lake Louise. I jumped on the opportunity to not only see her, but also to be able to stay in such a stunning place for free, get around with discounts and wow, you're right. I was living a dream.

She called me one night and one thing led to another, I bought a plane ticket and I was on my way to the Calgary Airport. I am still in summer school so it was definitely difficult to maximize the amount of time that I could stay there for. However, we managed, and I ended up staying there for 4 days.

Getting around Lake Louise / the Banff area without a car is no easy task, so if you are planning on visiting and would like to take one advice from this post, BRING / RENT A CAR... or not and spend hours on the Brewster bus (but with my best friend around, those hours flew right by anyway). 

On my first day there, we hung out with her friends at the cabin and had some really nice talk. We then headed out to Field, B.C. for dinner at Truffle Pigs. Overall, the car ride there & dinner conversations set me up for a great stay ahead. After heading back to Lake Louise, we went out to the pub since not to brag or anything, but I am legal in Alberta. It was a great experience and I'm glad I shared my first legal pub night with my best friend.

On the second day, we decided to hike to Lake Annette and stay at the Paradise Valley Campground. Here is the fun part. It was pouring rain the day we decided to do that 6 hour hike, but not only that, because we did not have proper camping backpacks, we couldn't really fit anything into them other than our tent & sleeping bags. We were hiking in the rain without a spare change of clothes, socks and barely enough food (2 salmon bagels, 2 granola bars & 1 mars bar). We weren't even wearing enough layers to begin with because we completely underestimated the weather and the hiking time between Lake Annette and the actual campground. I even slipped on wet mud on our way there! There went my only hoodie keeping me warm!! The freezing cold night in our tents with barely any sleep showed our summer camping trip was not as perfect as we had imagined it would be after all. However, we made it back and I'm still alive, so I guess it was a hike for the books. Regardless, Lake Annette was drop dead gorgeous and the view from the mountains was worth every step there.

After spending the night in our tents freezing our toes off, we woke up early in the morning, hiked to the Giant Steps and quickly made our way down the mountain. We headed to Banff and went on the gondola, the hot springs, explored a bit and called it a night. I was so happy to be back sleeping in a nice warm room, I slept like a baby.

We woke up on my last day there at 5am to do a sunrise canoe at Lake Louise. It was again, freezing cold but the lake was just so beautiful, I was so speechless. We canoed around while playing music and chatting. Before we knew it, I witnessed the most beautiful sunrise in my life. We then hiked the Plain of Six Glaciers and it was unlike any hike I've ever seen or done. We walked along the ridge of the mountain and found ourselves in a sea of rocks. It felt like falling in love with nature all over again. The switchbacks eventually led to the teahouse and we indulged in some apple pound cake and lemonade.

Here I am back in Vancouver now, blogging and wishing I was in Lake Louise. There are so many trails I haven't been on yet and spending 4 days there simply was not enough. I promise I'll be back but before that, I'll go back to working on my Android App which is due for my summer course next week. How fun!

Korea

My trip to Korea was definitely a trip to remember. I went with my own family along with a couple of aunts and uncles, putting us at 8 people in total. Going anywhere with my family, aunts & uncles is super fun because everyone is so energetic and happy all the time. Therefore, going to Korea was no different. There was pretty much never a dull moment. But since we were only going there for 5 days, my aunt personally made us a super detailed itinerary accommodating where each and every single one of us wanted to go. We were out the door at 8am and got back to the hotel after 12am every night, but it was so worth it. The food in Korea was not only cheap, they’re delicious. Their desserts are also so cute, but what did I expect, it’s Korea! 

We visited the Alive Museum on the first day. We had loads of fun there, my aunts & uncles were laughing so loudly throughout the entire museum that I am surprised we did not get a noise complaint. It was a great picture taking spot and some of the stuff are actually really well designed, like the Alice in Wonderland part. 

We also visited a Hanbok Cafe where we dressed up, did our makeup and took pictures in the Korean traditional outfits. That was way more interesting than I expected, plus we got some great family pictures out of it. 

BUT READ THIS IF YOU ARE GOING TO KOREA, the racoon cafe is WILD. There were dogs and a ton of racoons inside, it was insane. I love animals, I promise, but they were everywhere. The dogs would pull your shoes right off of your feet and run away with them, the walls had urine dripping down and a dog’s literally spat the biggest puddle of saliva down to the first floor from the second floor. Okay, all those things were actually true but it wasn’t as bad as I make it out to be I guess haha. It was a really great experience, and it definitely wasn’t the cafe’s fault that I felt a little overwhelmed, but this was probably my least favourite (sorry) place we went to. 

We also visited Lotte Mart and then went to a Sauna after. I have never been to a sauna before and it was just so cool! There were literally 6 or 7 floors in the Sauna place and every floor had something different. The hot & cold rooms were such a challenge, especially the ones at super extreme temperatures. But as usual, my family got a great laugh out of it. 

If you are visiting Korea as a family (and even if not), you need to check out Everland! It’s an amusement park, but it felt like so much more. There were actually a lot of different attractions you could look at, so many that you would have to take a little cable car to travel from area to area. There were rides like your typical amusement parks, but there was also a beautiful rose garden- we even went of a safari ride. Everland honestly had so much to offer, I really recommend it!

I won’t bore you by writing about every single place I visited but the last one, which was my favourite, is FRANK, a coffee shop on the outskirts of Seoul. This place served rainbow cakes, great lattes & Mendl’s Courtesan au Chocolat . Yes! Mendl’s Courtesan au Chocolat from the Grand Budapest Hotel. If you know me, you know I love Wes Anderson. I have had the biggest crush on all his work ever since I was in grade 8. Therefore, to be able to eat such a rare dessert that they made for his film was worth a trip to Korea on its own. It wasn’t just for looks though, the cream puff layers actually tasted so good, I bought two and brought one back to the hotel with me, and ate it as a midnight snack (oops haha). If you are also a huge Wes Anderson fan, you need to make a trip here ASAP. The pink Mendl’s box was also a great souvenir, for me, at least!

So that pretty much sums up my trip to Korea, it was Seoul fun. ;) I am glad I was able to visit there right before my internship started. It was the perfect trip. 

Hong Kong

It’s been forever since I last posted but I have an excuse- I have been working & travelling. I’m currently in Hong Kong, I went to Korea a couple of weeks ago which I’ll do a separate post about. Anyway, Hong Kong is still as beautiful as I last remember it. I’m glad not much has changed since I would have been really disappointed otherwise because afterall, Hong Kong is probably my favourite place, ever.

When the plane landed in Hong Kong, I was almost in tears. From the slightly polluted air (HAHA, I KNOW) to the beeping noises of Octopus Cards at 7-11, nostalgia followed me everywhere. Then, when we finally headed back to our home, things sure looked different. I was definitely shorter and smaller when I came back 3 years ago, either that, or my room shrank a lot over the years. 

But don’t you worry, nostalgia can’t drag me down. My sister, her boyfriend and I headed to Disneyland the second we put down our bags at home. This might sound ridiculous but we bought a yearly membership there. Although we would only be here for 3 months, we did the math and it was worth it (I have already been 5 times, so I guess we were right). 

Hong Kong Disneyland is a real beauty. A lot of people who visit there complain because the park is smaller compared to other ones across the world. However, as someone who grew up always having a yearly pass to Disney and lived almost right next to it, it’s hard to see any flaws in such a magical place. My favourite ride is still Space Mountain, it’s so pretty inside, you won’t even believe it (Well, I guess you would if you've been). The new ride Mystic Manor is also a must go, the backstory is adorable and the ride is to die for. I plan on returning at least twice more before I leave? So yup, money on that yearly pass was well spent. 

Ozone at the Ritz-Carlton

Ozone at the Ritz-Carlton

Besides Disneyland, I have also visited a ton of tourist attraction in Hong Kong. Just to list a few, the Hong Kong Observatory Wheel (Not as high as the High Roller in Las Vegas which I went on last year, but the view of Central is amazing), Hello Kitty Dim Sum (Everything there was so cute!), Mong Kok (Definitely one of my favourite places overall), Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car (Another must-visit for an amazing view) & the Big Buddha (<3). Another place I loved was Causeway Bay. It is stunning at night especially because I love love love lights in the night time, and Causeway Bay has just that. 

Infinity Pool at Discovery Bay

Infinity Pool at Discovery Bay

Anyway, I am about to head for lunch with my family. I hope you guys enjoyed the update and I’m so grateful to have such an amazing start to my Summer! I am excited to keep exploring Hong Kong. :)

Review: UBC CPSC 121

The end of a semester calls for another course review. This time, for CPSC 121. This course is an introductory course to models of computation. It covers all the basics from as simple as converting binary to hexadecimal, to different types of circuits (combinational logic circuits, sequential circuits, finite-state machines etc). I really enjoyed this course because it was the first time I have really dealt with discrete mathematics and have been able to associate it to different aspects of Computer Science, not just programming.  

CPSC 121 in particular has fairly heavily weighted assignments, which makes sense because they can quite time consuming. Those assignments ensure that you are keeping up with the class work. There are also weekly quizzes but those are fairly straightforward and only exist to make sure you are doing the pre-readings. In addition to quizzes, there are weekly labs where you work on “magic boxes” & logisim. Unlike in 110, labs are usually very simple & most people finish within an hour or so. As far as the midterms go, they definitely can be tricky, but that seems to be a trend in 121. So, as long as you are riding the curve, you should have nothing to worry about.

Overall, the course was interesting & was very enjoyable, I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Computer Science, or even to any Math lovers out there.

QED. :)

nwHacks 2016

So a while back I posted about how excited I was about going to nwHacks. So, here is my post about it! :)

My group and I met through the "nwHacks attendees" Facebook page. I totally recommend searching for a group through pages like that! I was originally not going to go since my original team completely fell apart. However, I'm so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to team up with people I have never met before! We went in the hackathon with the thought that maybe we could just make a Grade Calculator, until we realized that Benegg does something very similar & it would be difficult for us to add features (ie curving of grades, since there is no universal system to perform curving etc). Therefore, we needed to come up with something else. After about an hour of brainstorming, we came up with a completely different idea of creating a Chrome Extension, which performs encryption & decryption of text with just the click of a button. (Pretty far off from our original idea, eh?) 

Then, it was time to get working. None of us have ever made a Chrome Extension before so we had to learn that right away. Turns out, we only had to create an extra manifest.json file and the rest was just JavaScript. We used HTML & jQuery as well to get the extension running. It is interesting because I haven't coded much with JavaScript before this Hackathon, but now I could honestly say that I feel a lot more comfortable with JS (which is crazy since I spend an entire term learning Racket, and still felt pretty iffy about it until I started making my own side projects). 

We did encounter a lot of difficulties while making this project, and the main one was bridging the activeTab and the Extension itself, as we wanted to automatically replace any text which was highlighted, with either the encrypted or decrypted version. When we got the Extension to finally talk to the website, our team screamed (it was 4am?).  Then of course, we had to come up with an extremely secure encryption & decryption system, which we opted using the RSA cryptosystem for.

After that, we simply made a website using a bootstrap template, designed an Extension icon, the logo for our website, a video tutorial and voila!

While demo-ing, all our hopes and dreams of winning any type of award fell apart. Other teams had such amazing projects. Thankfully, our goal was not to win in the first place, but rather to just have a good time at our first ever Hackathon. But here comes the best part, we actually ended up winning first place of $2000 from PrivateInternetAccess for our project. That, was the highlight of my University career thus far.

This hackathon was the best first hackathon experience I could have gotten. And also, since one of our teammates was from The University of Washington, perhaps we will all meet again next year at DubHacks. :) To many more hackathons to come.

Check out more about my project here!

GIRLsmarts4tech

After months of meetings and planning, we finally had our first workshop!

If you did not know, I am a Group Leader at GIRLsmarts4tech, a workshop held by UBC's Department of Computer Science (sponsered by Microsoft). These workshops are intended to inspire girls to develop an interest in Computer Science at an early age. All I can say is, I wish I could have gone to one of these in my time.

My Saturday was well spent teaching girls HTML, 3D printing, HCI & Programming. The best part of being a group leader is that you get to participate in all the events rather than just one. To document such an amazing and funfilled day, I used snapchat's time stamps to take pictures throughout the day and created a collage. That also means I am saving you lots of scrolling time as those 16 pictures individually would have been a pain to scroll through.

Here's how my day went:

All the group leaders arrived early at 8:15 am to grab breakfast together and prepare for the girls' sign ins. We got awesome T-shirts, a super cool folder and this huge colourful bow to wear on our heads (the colour of the bow represents the colour of my group!)

12625848_10203905256190989_649750523_n.jpg

We then proceeded to our first stop, HTML. Watching the girls code in HTML reminded me of how I used to do that on Neopets. The webpages they ended up creating looked beautiful. My favourite part of this activity was watching them decide the theme of their web pages. There was Justin Bieber (of course), Figure Skating, Hippos, and the list goes on. I felt really awesome "debugging" their code and helping them out. (Most of them were usually either just missing a quotation mark or bracket, but shhh, don't tell them- or else I won't seem like a tech wizard anymore)

Then we moved on to 3D printing. My sister currently works at a 3D printing company and for Christmas, she even made me a 3D printed snowflake necklace. Therefore, the process was quite familiar to me. However, the session was fun nonetheless and to be honest, when could 3D printing ever get boring? 

At around 1pm, we moved on to HCI. HCI was probably my favourite because the girls got to be as creative as they wanted to be throughout the entire hour. They then got to present their mini projects for the rest of the girls. They are such an intelligent group!

By the way, you can tell the Red Group is the coolest by our Neko Atsume poster ;)

By the way, you can tell the Red Group is the coolest by our Neko Atsume poster ;)

Our last stop was programming, the girls were taught how to program using Scratch. The process is straightforward and is such an incredible programming language to teach to children! Check it out here: https://scratch.mit.edu/ Even with programming experience, Scratch is still very fun to play with.

Finally, all the groups then met up and participated in some tech demos. Microsoft was there letting the girls play Just Dance 4 with Kinect, the rest of the group leaders and I could not help but dance and sing along too. There was also a demo on FeelCraft, "a framework for creating tactile experiences for entertainment media". Learn more about it here: http://oliverschneider.ca/feelcraft/ It was an impressive demo and when Oliver Schneider was showing us his work, the room was filled with Ooo's and Ahh's! (Did I mention he worked for Disney Research? I bet Disney Research is actually the happiest place on earth.) 

Just like that, our day was wrapped up. It is an incredible experience and opportunity. I do not regret a single second spent on this workshop. I do not even resent attending a meeting the day before a midterm, which quite frankly, says a lot. 

There will be another workshop coming up very soon, I might blog about it if I have time but if not, here is my experience with GIRLsmarts4tech.

Learn more about GIRLsmarts4tech here.

Algorithms

School has only been opened for 3 weeks and I already have a midterm in a couple of days. How great is that? Haha, but in all seriousness, second semester has definitely been treating me way better than the first.

I am currently in CPSC 121, which is a Computer Science course about logic, proofs, circuits etc. and one of the topics we discuss is algorithms. The word "algorithm" itself sparked a sense of nostalgia in me. I used to memorize tons and tons of algorithms because I loved Rubik's Cubes. I knew the beginner's method and the Jessica Fridrich method to solving a 3x3 cube (the latter method being more efficient, of course!) and that was all I did in grade 7. Yes, I was that kid. But, unless this is the first post you have read by me, are you really surprised?

I liked to call myself the "hardcore recreational cuber". No, I was no Thrawst, or MeMyselfandPi (my favourite YouTube cubers), but I cubed 24/7 (on the bus, while walking, in class- you name it). The first time I ever ordered anything online was the silver mirror bump cube. I was in love. Shortly after ordering that one, I saved up all my allowance and bought the rest, which I spent days learning how to solve all the parity errors. After spending days learning, I spent years practicing and of course, mastered the cube lubrication technique with sand paper & silicone spray. If you are interested, the cubes shown include the Lanlan 2x2, Rubik's 3x3, Ghosthand 3x3 (my favourite), Mini Diansheng 3x3, Void Cube, Mirror/Bump Cube, Maru 4x4 and Eastsheen 5x5, Rubik's Slide & Rubik's Snake. I still remember my English teacher forcing me to solve a scrambled cube in front of all my classmates. I solved it in exactly 30 seconds, that was my record, even up till today.

It's been a couple of years since I have done speedcubing, so I timed myself yesterday, and my 5 best tries averaged at around 1 minute and 10 seconds. Not the best, but considering I haven't cubed in so long, it was definitely decent. 

Anyway, did you have any childhood obsessions? Share them with me!

Game Review?

The title is a question and so here is my answer: No, this is not really a "game review" because I am unfortunately, not really a gamer anymore and cannot provide you with valid comparisons between this game and every other one. However, I do want to talk about a game that I discovered and thoroughly enjoyed. (so I guess technically it is a game review, it just won't be a good one haha)

If you know me, you know I love Wes Anderson. I fell in love with Moonrise Kingdom when it first came out. I mean, how could you not? Suzy is a such a bad(butt), she is honestly all I ever aspire to be. Shortly after watching Moonrise Kingdom, I went on a Wes Anderson movie marathon. I admire his stylistic approach to film directing, and the fact that you could recognize his films from a mile away. I wish I could steal his style, but at the same time, that really defeats the purpose of having a "style", doesn't it? 

So when I found this game based on The Grand Budapest Hotel, I downloaded it without hesitations. Basically the game follows the journey of a lobby boy, who is told that one of his guests is from the resistance. Given the characteristics, the lobby boy must then eavesdrop & spy on guests to figure out who it is. The game is quick, and straight forward. Yet, it was still extremely enjoyable to play, and games like these are really all I have time to play nowadays. In addition, I love the graphics in this game, you could tell from the colour palettes that it is very Wes Anderson-esque.

* I also remembering programming an elevator as one of my first programming assignments, seeing something similar in a game definitely felt nostalgic. 

You should try it out and let me know what you think! 

Download it here: http://maquisard.itch.io/maquisard (You could download it for any amount of money you think the game deserves, but technically it is free!)

Anyway, I guess I just really wanted to share what I have been up to. This game has definitely made me really interested in game design, that just might be the next thing I tackle. :)

Review: UBC CPSC 110

I survived the first semester of University!! 

My final course marks came out yesterday and it was terrifying. I was out all night for a dinner & movie date with some friends of mine from my Physics class. All I could really remember was us constantly checking our phones to see when our results would be released.  ( Whatta bunch of losers, I know haha )

Anyway, my marks were not as high as I had hoped they would be, but it's all good. It's only the first semester and at least I did not fail any classes; that's an accomplishment, right?

So as celebration for this milestone, I've decided to do a review on a course I took this semester: CPSC 110. I remember googling a ton about this course in particular, before going into University. Computer Science is my major, and I wanted all the tips I could possibly find on it. So, if that is you right now, you're in luck.

CPSC 110 is an introductory Computer Science course at UBC— "Computation, Programs, and Programming". To begin with, this course is relatively tough, especially if you have had no previous experience with programming. However, it is super doable, and if you are one to seek a challenge, this course is perfect for you. 

110 covers a lot of basics of programming with a language that is used almost specifically at UBC, called "DrRacket". This course is in a "reverse classroom" format where you watch videos of lectures at home, and lectures actually serve as practice. I personally really enjoyed this because just like any other University student, I had so much work to do that if practices were not done in class, I would have probably neglected doing them. 

You will find yourself hearing "Follow the recipe" at least 400 times throughout the duration of this course. It's frustrating, because I too, have tried changing the templates and making up my own recipes in order to force my tests to pass. However, and trust me on this, you will always benefit from following the recipe, rather than having a working code which does not. 

This course has 2 midterms and 1 final exam. The first midterm is a slice of cake. I'm sure most students who took this course would have to agree with me on this. However, do NOT underestimate this course just because you did well on the first midterm. The first midterm is worth very little and if you start slacking off after that, you will find yourself in a lot of trouble the night before your second midterm. This happened to me, but thank goodness, I managed to catch up right on time and still ended up with an A on the second midterm. Alongside the midterms were weekly problem sets. The problem sets, in my opinion was the most difficult aspect of the course. I would spend hours scratching my head over them but they are honestly really good practice. Be warned, they might take up to a couple of hours to complete, so don't start them one hour before the deadline! 

Finally, the final exam was actually quite simple. If you were able to follow along throughout the entire course, the exam should be able to reflect that. A lot of people will freak out after the exam because if you fail the exam, you will fail the course. However, believe in yourself, and block other people out because they will only bring you unnecessary stress!

Overall, I had a great time in CPSC 110 and every moment I spent in this course reminds me of exactly why I am in Computer Science, and just how much I love it. So, good luck if you too are taking this course, and if you have any questions about it, feel free to contact me! :)

Example of problems in CPSC 110

Example of problems in CPSC 110

Computer Science

How I chose my university major:

Choosing a major is like choosing a pair of shoes in a shoe store. There are so many different options, they’re all unique and fascinating but, what if they don’t look good on me?

When I first stumbled upon the idea that I liked Sciences, I signed up for the Career Preparation Program in my high school. It was simple, if you had an interest, you wrote it down, and your teacher will try to land you interviews at different companies seeking help. That made my job 20x easier because one month into grade 11, I was working at Science World. I loved ripping tickets for people heading in the OMNIMAX theatre, but what I loved even more was educating visitors about the galleries. On the first day, we were given informational sheets about facts of the various galleries, and the science behind certain demos and machines. I went home, read through the information and was so fascinated, I memorized every single fact I possibly could have. The next day, I was spitting out facts to guests like it was the new Fetty Wap single. That’s when I realized I loved Science, and also that I am maybe, just maybe, a huge nerd. 

I proceeded to try and discover more opportunities to volunteer or work in the realm of Science & Technology. This is where Tech Easy comes in. I helped kickstart Tech Easy, a non-profit organization with over 250 volunteers going around the Greater Vancouver, helping seniors with technology. Teaching others about technology is what made me realize that I loved it. I loved every aspect of it. Then, thinking back to how I used to love programming as a hobby, everything clicked. I found the perfect shoe.

There is still a huge chance that Computer Science might not be what I am destined to do, but half a year into the program, I can confirm that so far, I regret nothing.

Check out Tech Easy here & read some of my blog posts here!

Hello, World!

I’ve kept journals ever since I was in kindergarten. Yes, I'll admit- if the grammar police were to take a glimpse at those journals, they would probably cringe so hard, they would rip the pages up one by one. Fortunately, I am not a grammar police, so the journals are still intact. However, those journals have been sitting on my shelf collecting dust for the past 2 years. I keep telling myself that I was going to write as soon as school starts, then it’s as soon as midterms are over, then, before I know it, it’s been 2 years.

So here we are! I want to be able to document all my experiences and my journey, and if a journal no longer suffices, then a blog will have to. 

Here, I will be documenting my experiences, whether it be about school, technology, events that I attend, or just anything I feel like sharing. I hope you enjoy!