Mac or Lenovo? Neither. Richard Davis '18 built his own desktop computer when he was 12. "I've been using it ever since."
"When I tell people I built a computer, most people think of me soldering parts together. I think the media misrepresents what's involved and makes it seem like you have to be a tech specialist to do anything. Anyone with a basic sense of logic can do it. Putting a computer together is like building an expensive LEGO set. When I wanted to buy the parts my dad called Newegg, a computer parts seller, to see if what I was ordering made sense. Newegg said my parts list was great, that I seemed to know what I was doing, and that I had designed a pretty powerful computer. After that, my parents relented and purchased the parts and components for me."
As a freshman new to Randolph, Richard expanded on his understanding of computer components and presented his business idea for providing a concierge service to help youth build custom machines for education, personal use and gaming, at the Youth Leadership Council's entrepreneurship contest—he won second place. He noted it would be a cost-efficient way for parents to purchase a computer, while at the same time teaching the student the value in upgrading and taking extreme care of a computer.
Richard's interest in coding began in 4th grade with a web design class and learning about Scratch, and was furthered by the release of Minecraft. He got into programming, writing video games and applications.
"I learned programming in Java through modifying Minecraft, from there I expanded into other languages. I enjoyed Scratch because, as a 5th grader, it showed me what was possible through programming. I hope that the younger students are learning it. Scratch made coding accessible. Scratch is like the Latin of programming languages. Once I learned it I saw that coding was doable."
Last summer, Richard returned to his hometown, New York City, to take part in a six-week program, All-Star Code, whose mission is to "empower young men with the skills, networks, and mindsets they need to create new futures through technology," and places participants with internships at the companies that sponsor it.
Richard interned at Google. "I like experimenting and collaboration," he says. After a programming intensive, he worked with two other people to create a music search engine called Phonograph, which runs searches on Spotify and SoundCloud.
"I know Python and Java,” he says, "but wish I had more opportunities to utilize it and I encourage the School to provide more opportunities and creative space for people to collaborate and do more." He looks forward to taking Computer Science next year. He went to a hackathon in N.Y.C. last year and attended the Amazon Echo hackathon the School co-hosted last October. "I only understood about two-thirds of it, but it was a great experience." Coding and programming are about taking risks and trial and error — until it all makes sense.
This story is from a series of thumbnail portraits in the forthcoming Spring 2017 Randolph Magazine, in a feature titled “Learning in the Community: Transformative Experiences.” The student portraits that accompany these profiles were created in an editorial photography project in Peter Townsend’s Advanced Photography class.