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Elijah Smith

My name is Eli, and I’m a computer science major with a minor in mathematics graduating in May of 2023. I’m an out-of-state student who has lived ~30 minutes outside of Philadelphia, PA for 8 years and spent 10 years before that living in San Antonio, TX. I’ve been involved with several clubs and organizations throughout my time at UCF, most notably Knight Hacks (a software-development student organization that sponsors UCF’s annual Hackathon), the Google Developer Student Club at UCF (GDSC), undergraduate research (through the WEAR Lab under Dr. Joon Park), and the badminton club! Outside of school, I enjoy strategy board, card, or video games, playing racket sports, spending time with my friends and clubmates, listening to a wide genre range of music, and working on cool programming projects.

My favorite class at UCF has been Computer Science 1 with Dr. Charles Hughes. This class is the single most critical course for any student interested in CS because every other course in the CS track relies on a fundamental understanding of the concepts you learn about in CS1. Despite being so early in the CS track, CS1 is easily the most challenging course in the track until the upper-level classes you take around senior year. Dr. Hughes did an excellent job explaining and covering the large amount of material and I really enjoyed his interesting assignments, even if they were challenging at times. My second favorite class at UCF has been Chinese Language and Culture I with Professor Teel, which has been the highlight of my Fall 2022 semester so far!

I’m really excited to be a STEM ambassador for my second full year. Being able to inspire students and see the tangible excitement for programming in their faces because of this program has been the most rewarding experience of my entire time at UCF. I’ve been given many opportunities and exposures to STEM concepts as early as elementary school that led me to discover an enthusiasm for all things programming around middle school. As a result, I’m incredibly passionate about finding opportunities to make an impact on young students the same way my teachers, parents, and mentors made an impact on my interests and aspirations.

The most important thing I’ve learned for succeeding as a STEM major is the importance of confidence in yourself, something I’ve struggled with at multiple points in my degree. Especially in STEM subjects where there are so many things to learn and try, it’s a simple fact there’s always someone that has done more and knows more than you. It’s very easy to have imposter syndrome and feel like you don’t belong because you’re not at the same level as someone else. Everyone comes from a different background, has had different experiences, and will go on to do different things. Be your own person, be confident in your abilities, and be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Find what makes you happy and pursue your own dreams, not someone else’s.