Why are you interested in STEM?
That’s easy. I’ve always been into science and technology. My real passion is video games, though. All of my friends are gamers, and we’ve always talked about making something ourselves one day. Because the game industry relies so heavily on STEM advances, it made sense for me to track down a STEM program. I want to help shape the next generation of consoles, especially now that virtual reality is about to catch hold.

How did you get involved in this STEM program or school?
My school’s career counselor recommended Game Experience summer camp because she knew I had an interest in game animation and production, but didn’t know exactly where to start. She thought it would be a great fit, and she was right. I won’t lie—that brochure she gave me totally changed my life.

What did you learn in the program? What was your favorite part?
Well, first off, it was super fun—such a great balance of education and activities. I was never bored or anxious to move on to something else. We explored Seattle a bunch of different ways. We also did some crazy stuff, like indoor skydiving and laser tag. We went to a baseball game, and toured some of the most famous game studios, like Pop Cap, Valve, and Big Fish, where we learned firsthand about game development. . . And that's not to mention all the fun we had working on our projects at our dorms! A surprising aspect of this summer program is that they provide everyone with smartphones. We all received Nexus 5s, the newest Google phone at the time. This allowed us to easily keep in touch with each other, and the unlimited data plan meant we could stream movies and music at night. I even used it for some Android game development.

How did this STEM program influence your future plans?
As a rising senior in high school, I feel better prepared for the challenges of game development. I'm more confident about pursuing it in college and beyond. I would definitely recommend this experience to anyone, especially beginners interested in game development. I feel really lucky to have been able to sharpen my skills so early on in my career, and to have done so with like-minded people. It’s a great place to make new friends.

What would you tell other teens interested in pursuing a STEM major?
Be sure to get involved in extracurricular and summer activities, which can help you identify the subjects and areas that match your future career aspirations. I already knew that I was passionate about animation and video games, but after the Game Experience summer camp, I learned that I was actually more interested in the programming side of things. Figuring out what you like and what you don't will save you from getting stuck in something that’s just not for you.