Profiles: Teaching Assistant David White

David White has been interested in technology for years, from making games to competing in robotics tournaments. Many vacation and summer campers got to know David as he helped them discover these technologies – and the creativity involved – themselves. We recently sat down with David to find out a little bit more about how his interests evolved.

What grade are you in?

I’m a senior this year.

Where do you go to school?

I go to Lexington High School, and will attend Tufts University next year.

How long have you been working with Empow?

I started in December 2013.

How did you get interested in technology and in robotics?

I’ve always been interested in technology and robotics for as long as I can remember. My interest skyrocketed when I got my first LEGO Mindstorms kit in elementary school.

I enjoyed building different projects, but I didn’t really have any direction until I went to the FIRST Robotics World Competition with my Dad. FIRST is an international organization “For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”. My dad was working on porting Java to the robots, so he had to go, and I went along with him. I was in awe at all of the amazing robots and the teams that made them. I wanted to earn my way to Worlds on a team. So when I got home, I got some friends together and started a FIRST Lego League team. We competed for two years, and it was a lot of fun working towards a goal with a team, making and testing robots together. We made it to the State Competition both years, but no further. I also joined The FIRST Tech Challenge team at my school Freshman year (I was on both teams at once for a year!), and contributed there as well.

In my sophomore year, we finally did it: we made it to Worlds. The experience I had in St. Louis that year was one of the best I’ve ever had. Not only did we do well in the competition, but we grew closer together from the experience. The next year was kind of a flop. Most of the team graduated, but we got 40 new members (the recommended team size is 10). It was a challenge getting them integrated, and we didn’t compete that well. However, I designed a part, dubbed ‘the toaster’, which worked very consistently. I got to lead a small team at implementing my design.

As a result of that, I got to be a captain this year. The team swelled to 60 members. This time, though, we were better prepared, and we did very well at the State Championship, advancing to Super Regionals in Pennsylvania, then to Worlds in St. Louis again. It was a different experience with a larger team (18 hours on a bus!). We didn’t do quite as well as we did last time, but it was still fun. This is my last year on the team, and it was certainly a great experience. I hope to join other robotics organizations at Tufts next year and continue to learn about robotics and engineering.

What excites you about it? What do you like most?

I really love seeing the pieces come together into something meaningful and interesting to solve a problem. You start out with a bunch of parts, and in the end, you have a solution. Seeing that happen, making that happen, is a great experience for me.

What careers are you considering pursuing?

I’m definitely interested in mechanical engineering. I like physically building things. I’m also interested in game design to a lesser degree.

Do you think what you have learned as a teaching assistant at Empow will help you in your future endeavors?

Definitely. I learn not just about teaching others, but also about the material I’m teaching. Also, this is my first consistent job, so I’ve also learned a lot about having a job here.

What is your favorite type of creative tech project?

Scratch is a good introductory programming language, but it’s also surprisingly powerful. I’ve been working with it since 6th grade. When Scratch 2.0 came out last year, I decided to really push the limits of what it can do. I made Pico Attack, a game where you start out smaller than an atom, and eat things to get bigger while avoiding larger objects. Eventually, you become bigger than a cell, over a billion times your original size. There’s also “The Menu”, which is a log of everything you’ve eaten in the game, with interesting tidbits of information about them. You can check out the latest version here:

Thanks, David, and best of luck at Tufts! We hope you’ll stop by for a visit some time soon.