’20
Tracy
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Computer Science
Mathematics

Interests

Soccer, Painting, Muay Thai, The Big Bang Theory show, Gym, Volunteering, Tutoring

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HackU

March 20, 2017

Beneath the attention-grabbing title “Justin Bieber is dating Tram?” of the online article was a sloppily photoshopped picture of me and the Canadian singer. Impressed by the prank, I bribed my precocious brother into teaching me this HTML/CSS trick (which is, by the way, totally doable with the Inspect Element tool). 

Justin Bieber might have unofficially introduced me to computer science 2 years ago, but his charm (?) was not the reason I stayed. As I tinkled with different CSS effects like carousel sliders and popup boxes, I grew more intrigued by website development in particular and coding in general. It’s super exciting how inanimate codes could give life to a dynamic website, but even more so when I’m part of such magic. 

Earlier this semester, I got the chance to actually build a webapp from scratch through HackU, a hackathon organized by Dominion Enterprise. Contrary to what others often assume, us CS majors do not congregate at hackathons to wreak havoc with security systems or secretly take over the world. A hackathon is a social events wherein programmers try to create a functional product in 24 or 36 hours. It can be a webapp, an iphone app, technology products that utilize hardwares, etc.

My team decided to take on the Rafflebot challenge that Dominion Enterprise proposed — which is to create a webapp that can automatize social media raffles, and randomly generate a winner among those who posted/tweeted using the specified hashtag. We did not have much prior experiences with making webapps or phone apps. Luckily, HackU had 3 coaches for each team, and our coaches were incredibly helpful! They suggested using the DJango framework, which allows for easier and faster development. And so we did.

A picture of my team:

hack

During the next 36 hours, we delved into a framework we had never used before, learned a whole new programming language (Python, since Java — the language we’re most proficient in — is not practical for this project), and put everything we were learning into practice at the same time. This learning-by-doing process was stressful, but it was also worthwhile; I have not learned so much in such a short time before! Dominion Enterprise’s decision to have coaches mentoring each team really benefitted beginner teams like us. It allowed us to explore and learn by ourselves, but also receive necessary guidance when we meet a dead end and need to get back on track. Some of my friends went to other hackathons where there was minimal guidance, and were too frustrated or discouraged to complete their projects. With the help of our coaches, we finished the basics of the webapp in time. Although there were some functionalities we planned to implement but could not, my team was really proud of our first product!

team 1

HackU left me humble as I realized how little I knew, but also excited about future projects and opportunities. Witnessing the talents, innovation and teamwork dynamics at HackU, I knew I made the right choice to major in CS. By the way, my trip to Norfolk to attend HackU was funded entirely by University of Richmond after we submitted our funding request. UR has really generous funding for educational and professional development opportunities, and they are always supportive of students going to such beneficial events! So definitely take that opportunity to further your educational experiences here at Richmond. I myself would for sure team up with my CS friends and go to more hackathons in the future! 

About me

Hi guys, I'm Tracy, a newbie Spider at Richmond! My majors are probably Computer Science and Math, and I'm so in love with my current Math/CS classes. They're all amazing! A little more about my background: I'm from Vietnam, but I went to high school in Nebraska. It feels so weird to be a freshman again, when you practically know nobody at school, keep getting lost while finding your classes, always look up to your upperclassmen (no actually, with my height of 5ft2'',  I technically look up to everyone); and struggle with all the new changes.

Yet, it's also exciting! If you haven't already known, University of Richmond offers a wealth of choices in academics, research opportunities, extracurricular activites and - most importantly - desserts. So my goal is to get out of my comfort zone, jump at different opportunities (or desserts) that intrigue me, and make the most out of my college experience. I love soccer, so my friends and I just formed an intramural team named Kiss My Pass. I'm also interested in martial arts, learning ballroom dancing, painting, learning guitar, baking, making new friends,  tutoring and volunteering. Yup, that's quite a lot! But I have 4 years here to follow my passions and become who I aspire to be. As a Spider Diarist, I will also make sure to keep you updated on my journey at Richmond!


Why UR?

I actually applied to UR on a whim without researching carefully about it. At that time, all those tedious Why X and "What's your plans bla bla bla" prompts have exhausted my meager creative juices, and writing college essays quickly rose to the top of my most dreaded chores. "Tell us about Spiders" was a fresh air. It revived the truly poetic, hopelessly romantic, exasperatingly dramatic and possibly neurotic side of me. In short, I loved the prompt; and with the waived application fee as a plus, I decided to apply to UR. It was not until I got accepted that I started visiting the school and seriously considering what it has to offer. During my first visit, as cliched as that might sound, I fell in love with Richmond. What's not to love about such helpful and outstanding professors, the wonderful opportunities to engage in research or study abroad, the vibrant, inclusive and diverse community, and again - most importantly - the irresistable desserts? I went to the admission office to pay my deposit right during that visit. And voilà, here I am as an excited baby Spider!