Paper Flashlight

Written 10-9-19

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a maker. My parents told me that I started playing with Lego when I was one year old. Whether or not I did anything cool with Lego other than pressing bricks together and pulling them apart is another question entirely. I still remember all the fun I had putting together giant Lego sets during weekends. Then I’d take them apart and not rebuild them. Then I’d build something else with them. Back in elementary school, I always spent my free time in class making random things out of paper. I just liked working with my hands. At home, I was fascinated by chemistry. Every time I saw some chemistry set being sold I had to take a look. I just loved mixing chemicals together and seeing things happen.

One day in 4th grade, I decided to remove the lightbulb from my microscope. I was intrigued by some aspect of it. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I was somehow able to connect that lightbulb to a battery and light it up. That was the eureka moment. Excitement rushed through me like current rushed through the lightbulb. From then on I just knew I had to continue exploring this topic further.

After that, I tried to learn anything I could about electrical engineering. I didn’t really have any mentors or anyone that could help me, so I taught myself. Google and Youtube were my best friends in that regard. My dad did have an EE degree he didn’t use, but all he was able to teach me was how to strip wire. To be honest, that is an incredibly useful skill.

For my first “project”, I tried to make a flashlight. It wasn’t really even much of a flashlight. It was just a tube of paper with some room for a AA battery and lightbulb and wires. I still remember wrapping a battery in aluminum foil to make a battery holder and wondering why it was heating up. Hint: I shorted it.

Fast forward to 2011 and I learned about something called an Arduino. Controlling electronics using some text on a computer was really intriguing. My dad bought me an Arduino Duemilanove on Amazon and I got straight to learning. Starting with the blink sketch, I taught myself how to code, albeit ineffectively. I didn’t really learn how to code until Troy, where I had quite the eye-opening experience learning how to code for real. Learning CS at Berkeley was another eye-opening experience in its own right.

In 6th grade, I was able to convince my dad to let me solder. I still remember him trying to teach me and burning himself in the process. I don’t have any pictures because I didn’t get a phone until late 2012, but my first soldering project was a gamepad of sorts for Arduino. Looking at the schematic, I was able to solder together the circuit for the MAX7219 controlling an LED matrix. Back in the day I thought that was so cool. It still is.

Jump forward many years to junior year of high school. I was competing at the SciOly invitational held at UC Berkeley. While walking back from an event with my teammate Jared and his Berkeley friend, I mentioned that I liked electronics and coding. They immediately recommended the EECS major. In my head I was like “Hold up, there’s a major for that?” And that’s why I’m at UC Berkeley today majoring in EECS.