So one of my desires, my intellectual goals (since 2011) has always been to become proficient in Programming. I peered into the world of programming during my first semester at MIT. Before that, programming was an unknown world, “something computer people did.” My eyes were opened then to the power, beauty, and immense frustration of programming. In my first semester, I started doing “Programming Sketches” with one of THE BEST TEACHERS out there, who was still a Ph.D. Candidate at that time, Juhong Park. I started the course and spent several nights frustrated, becoming angry and sometimes weeping over writing code. I just could not get it! I remember one time my friend and brother Ki saw me in 9-250. There I was not understanding programming, cursing myself and almost in tears over how difficult this foreign thing was. Ki would comfort and reassure me that it was not something, “I could just get” if I never did it before. This was one of the main things I think I had (and still have to remind myself). I thought I would “get it” within a week or a few days, and it was not happening. I could not believe I was not getting it.

After a few weeks I dropped the course because I got into “How To Make Almost Anything” (HTMAA) which was higher on my priority list at that time. HTMAA also had programming, but I was able to get by, get help from my friends and TA’s and just try. But still, it never sank in. In Spring 2012 I took Leah Buechley‘s “New Textiles” course. There was some programming (Arduino and Processing) and I was able to get by. I wrote tiny codes that worked, nothing too intense. In Summer 2012 while working in Singapore I tried to teach myself programming (Rhinoscript and Python). I tried and tried. I think I understood somethings conceptually, but still – not really getting it. In Fall 2012 I took Java in the CompSci Dept at MIT. Great professor, awesome TA’s, somethings I understood. Still – not getting it the way I should, or the way I think I should. I was in every single recitation there was!! LOL. And still…not getting it.


By Spring 2013 I was focusing on my thesis and thought that for my sanity I would give programming a break and focus on what I was really good at. This was a wise decision, since instead of constantly feeling like crap, I excelled at doing what I was REALLY good at! Programming will just have to wait. After my graduation I moved back to Singapore in August 2013 to teach Design Computation courses to Architecture students. WHAT THE WHAT?!!!! Yes. Before the semester actually started we of course had to prepare. I would be involved in teaching Programming with Grasshopper and C#. I prepared and studied C# with the days and things made sense. I wasn’t a pro, but things made sense. The professor I taught with (Sawako Kaijima) knew her stuff inside and out. She too shared her struggles, persistence and victory stories with me about her journey through the difficult programming landscape. She reminded me to never give up! That semester was great and again, I made it through. I think my ability to understand the difficulty of grasping programming concepts allowed me to help the students even more. I would share examples with them, create tutorials in the form of cartoons that might help them understand certain concepts. I was the bridge between the genius (Sawako) and the new-comers (students).

In the Spring 2014 semester there was some programming in the course I taught, but more so visual programming with Grasshopper. Again, we made it through. During that semester I did Python Programming with Code Academy AND I sat in in my friend’s (Hyowon Lee) class. He was taught an introductory programming class to Information Systems students. These things really helped. I was trying to eat, sleep and dream code.

Well now in my Spring 2015 semester here at Penn State I am trying it yet again. I am taking Algorithmic Tectonics with Daniel Cardoso Llach. We are using Processing as our platform. I am hoping to lick this challenge of mine, grasping the abstractness of code. Wish me the best this time! I am at this minute in the library. I came to work on my programming assignment and while figuring out how best to work on it, I decided that I would do 3 things. (1) I will share my story for hope that it encourages someone – being patient with yourself is a good thing. (2) I will try to write at least one snippet of code everyday. Juhong made us do this in his class. This was THE foundation of his class… writing code daily. (3) I will document everyday how and what I feel while learning code. I will also post the results of those codes on Thinking Insomniac. It might keep me accountable. So, here’s to me trying to beat this programming monster. If you need a buddy to do the same with, feel free to join me.

The images above are outputs from code that I was trying to understand, make changes to and rewrite tonight. Looking forward to many more..


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