Computer science enthralls Tilghman teen

Chua

Ryan Chua is fascinated with computers and "pressed literally every button" when he first learned what they were at an early age.

The 17-year-old Paducah teen -- like most of his generation -- grew up in a world where technology is constant, whether it's smart phones, Wi-Fi or the latest video gaming system. It's of great interest to Chua, who is eager to know more about computers, coding and how it all works after he graduates next year from Paducah Tilghman High School.

Coding is the "basis of all technology," as Chua put it, and he's already spent time in that world, having made basic forms of a website and calculator, along with attending camps. He's got an eye on bigger projects in the future.

"When I joined the Coding Club, it was just a really cool experience to just create something totally on my own," he said. "It's something that I kind of take for granted -- like a calculator. So, after making one, which was painstakingly difficult for me -- I really appreciate it and I want to learn more about it."

Chua, son of Rona and Winston Chua of Paducah, is the Paducah Bank Teen of the Week.

Every Monday and Tuesday, The Sun will publish a feature story on area high school seniors selected from a pool of nominees submitted for consideration by guidance counselors.

At the end of the school year, one Teen of the Week will be chosen as Teen of the Year and receive a $5,000 scholarship. An additional student will be named the Inspirational Award recipient and receive a $1,000 scholarship.

It's not computers all the time for Chua, who enjoys playing music and video games as pastimes when he's not at school, busy with extracurriculars or doing homework. It can be a tricky balance to manage his packed schedule, but Chua manages well judging from his class ranking -- No. 1 -- and composite ACT score of 35.

"After school, I do my homework, maybe practice the piano for a while and then work on college apps," he said.

Chua said taking challenging curriculums has boosted his time management skills because he had to figure out a true balance between work and play. An AP Scholar with Distinction, he is expected to graduate with 13 AP classes and four dual credit classes.

He credits family for influencing his work ethic and describes his personal motivation in simple terms. He doesn't want to look back with regrets and think, "I could've done better."

Chua's time has been occupied with a wide array of activities outside of class at Tilghman. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout two years ago, attended the Kentucky Governor's Scholars program, got involved with Tilghman's academic team and played violin in the school orchestra.

The Governor's Scholars program, in particular, left a lasting impression on Chua, who found it "amazing." His focus area was music theory and performance. It was teamed with a creative writing focus to write and compose music for an original musical. They had 10 days to do it.

"A lot of it taught us that teenagers can really do things on their own," he said of the program. "That contrary to what most of society thinks about teenagers, we could actually be productive and do things that are useful if we are (in) the right circumstances."

He does not know what the future holds career-wise, but intends to study computer science at a four-year university and apply to around 15 colleges. The "dream" school is Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but first, he wants to enjoy his senior year of high school.

"No. 1 is survive senior year and, I guess, No. 2 is just have fun with it," he said.

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