computer scientist

A Computer Wiz



fluent full-time essential
junior graduate miserable
code (2) major (3) somewhat
crochet stuck (2) figure out
apply annoying transform
achieve empower decorate
care checkers couldn’t care less
absorb strength waste of time
painful consider sure of myself
nerd sort of challenged
gifted embrace get me (2)
mock kind of exceptional
tease reputable ridiculous
prove interact throughout
relate research chance (2)
weird goof off tremendous
range semester pretty (2)
campus interrupt efficiency
pace fabulous contagious
sensor concise marathon
goal (2) ultimate keep the pace
PhD. right (2) Renaissance (2)
bunch turn out finished product






Santiago: My name is Santiago Gonzalez. I’m 14 and I love to program.

Father: Santiago is crazy about computers.

Santiago: I’m fluent in about a dozen computer languages. Thousands of people have download my apps for the Mac iPhone and iPad.

Father: From sixth grade, he jumped to full-time college student.

Santiago: I will be 16 when I graduate from college and 17 when I finish my master’s. I really enjoy learning. I find that as essential as eating. Either you die or you’re pretty miserable without learning.

I generally wake up at 5:30. Then I program for about an hour. Eat breakfast. I go to school.

Right now I’m a junior at the Colorado School of Mines. I’m majoring in computer science.

I go to see Professor Bakos often to look at my code.

Beautiful code is short and concise. So if you were to give that code to another programmer, they would say, “Oh, that’s well written code.” It’s much like if you are writing a poem.

Right now this is Objective C. This is what iPhone and iPad and Mac use for programing.

I’ve created about 15 apps for both the Mac iPhone and iPad.

Sometimes when I go to sleep, I am stuck with an annoying bug that I can’t fix.

And in my dreams…I see myself programing.

And when I wake up, I have figured out the solution.

Professor Yong Bakos: Santiago is not just a machine that is absorbing information and applying that information, he’s actually transforming that information and empowering himself to create those things that he wants to create.

Santiago: One of the main reasons I started developing apps was to help people achieve something they wanted to do, such as decorate a Christmas tree or maybe play checkers with a very nice user interface.

Mother: Santiago is very old in some ways, and very young in others. Sometimes you forget you are talking to a 14 year old.

But sometimes he seems to be even younger than that. He couldn’t care less about what he is wearing.

Or girls.

Santiago: No I’m not interested in having a girlfriend at all. I find that it’s a tremendous waste of time.

Journalist: Tell me how you really feel.

Santiago: No that is how I really feel.

Father: He’s very sure of himself.

Mother: He has been different from other kids since he was little.

Santiago: I really like to crochet. This is one of the piggies from Angry Birds.

Mother: He has come to accept that difference and embrace it.

Santiago: Because I do definitely consider myself a nerd.

Mother: But he has not always been this good.

Father: When we first tested Santiago, he tested in the 99.99 percent.

Mother: We would explain something as if we were explaining to an adult. And he would understand it.

Father: His first interest was rocks and minerals, but he wanted to learn about rocks and minerals from adult books.

Mother: At that point, he was in first grade. You could tell his mind was somewhere else.

Father: He would come back from elementary, and he would be miserable because he wasn’t being challenged.

Santiago: I had teachers who didn’t really quite get me. It was a very boring and sort of painful experience.

Yong Gakos: For exceptionally gifted students like Santiago, these students are actually bored to tears, literally the fact that they are given this material that doesn’t challenge them. It’s as if you and I sat down and we did our ABCs for two hours.

Santiago: In regular school I found it was sort of ridiculous to be a nerd. The other kids did tease me and kind of mocked me a bit.

Mother: We knew that he needed somewhere else.

Father: God knows what would have happened if we hadn’t guided him the right way — it could have been a disaster.

Mother: And then we found Colorado School of Mines.

Yong Gakos. Colorado School of Mines is actually a very reputable engineering school here in the front range and actually throughout the world.

Mother: They were willing to take a chance; and Santiago proved that he could do it. So now he can really be himself, and relate with the students.

Yong Gakos: We have – let’s say – a lot of weird students at Mines; so most people on campus really embrace that. It’s kind of our strength.

Professor William Hoff: We’re all kind of nerds here. So we call all interact pretty easily.

Santiago: They’re at Mines to learn; they’re not goofing off and interrupting all the time. I don’t think I ever want to interact with kids my own age.

Currently this semester, I’m a research assistant for a professor at Mines.

Professor : I’m working to improve building energy efficiency. Santiago is building the sensor network we are going to be putting in the building.

I was really needing someone to develop that kind of project, and Santiago was a perfect fit.

Father: He loves being in college and learning at the pace he needs to be learning.

Santiago: Right now there are quite a few things in my different classes that are really, really interesting. For example, elements of computing systems.

Mother: It’s really exciting to see how much he enjoys learning about different things. And it’s contagious as well.

Father: If I had that drive when I was in college, that would have been fabulous. So I’m learning so much from my child now. It’s pretty wonderful.

Yong Gakos: Life for Santiago may be somewhat of a marathon that he’s already running through, and I hope he keeps the pace.

Santiago: After I finish my master’s, I’m getting a PhD. in computer science at Stanford.

And my ultimate goal is to work at Apple.

Father: It’s a Golden Age of computers. He lives in the right time I think; he’s a Renaissance Man.

Santiago: When an artist paints a painting, and he finishes, he says, ‘Oh wow, that’s a very nice painting. I like how it turned out.

And it’s the same thing with programing: going from a bunch of lines of code…to a finished product that people can enjoy all over the world.

It feels really nice.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *


1. Santiago is an ordinary teenager and high school student. True or false? Is he in school or in university? What is he majoring in?

2. Has he had a “part-time job”?

3. How did he feel in his school? Did he have problems?

4. Santiago fits in and feels at home in his university. Is this right or wrong?

5. Who does he work, study and interact with?

6. Is computer science only mathematical, logical and mechanical? Or is it also like an art? Is it creative and imaginative?

7. What are Santiago’s goals?

8. He is a womanizer. Is this correct or incorrect? What are his hobbies?
A. Are or were there child prodigies in your school, university or organization? Describe them.

B. Are child prodigies common or are they rare? Why are they so smart, talented and gifted?

C. Do parents, family members and communities help shape and influence child prodigies?

D. What should happen to child prodigies? How should they be treated?

E. Do you wish you were a prodigy or genius? What would you do?

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