14-Year-Old Prodigy Programmer Dreams In Code


[Typing] SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: My name is Santiago Gonzalez. I’m 14 and I love to program. [Music] YAGO GONZALEZ Santiago is crazy about computers. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: I’m fluent in about a dozen
different programming languages. Thousands of people have downloaded my apps
for the Mac iPhone and iPad. YAGO GONZALEZ: From sixth grade, he jumped
to full time college student. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: I will be sixteen when
I graduate college and seventeen when I finish my masters. I really enjoy learning. To me, I find it as essential as eating. Either you die or you’re pretty miserable
without learning. [Music] SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: I generally wake up at
5:30. Then I program for about an hour, eat breakfast. YAGO GONZALEZ: Here’s some tortillas, Santi. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: [To father] Thank you. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: I go to school. Right now, I’m a junior at the Colorado School
of Mines. I’m majoring in computer science. YONG BAKOS: Hey. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Hi, how are you? YONG BAKOS: Good. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: I go to see Professor Bakos
pretty often to look at my code. YONG BAKOS: I usually have this disease which
I call long-line-itis. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Okay. Well we may be able to do that. YONG BAKOS: [To Santiago] Ah, yeah. That removes the instance which you don’t
even need. I didn’t even think of that. Y’know the motivation we talked about in class
about writing beautiful code? SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Mhmm. YONG BAKOS: Is it enough to write that slew
of code such that the program just works or is the code also the artistic medium? SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Beautiful code is short
and concise so if you were to give that code to another programmer, they would say, oh,
that’s well written code. It’s much like if you’re writing a poem. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Right now, here, this is
Objective C. It’s what iPhone, iPad & Mac use for programming. I’ve created right now about 15 apps for both
the Mac, iPhone, and iPad. Sometimes when I go to sleep, I’m stuck with
an annoying bug that I can’t fix and in my dreams I see myself programming. And when I wake up, I have figured out the
solution. YONG BAKOS: Santiago’s not just a machine
at excels at absorbing information and applying that information. He actually is transforming that information
and empowering himself to create those things he wants to create. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: One of the main reasons
I started developing apps was to help people achieve something they wanted to do such as
decorate a Christmas tree or play checkers with a very nice user interface. VANESSA GONZALEZ: Santiago he is very old
in some ways and very young in others. Sometimes you forget that you’re talking to
a 14-year-old, but sometimes he seems to be even younger than that. He can care less about what he’s wearing or
girls. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: No, I’m not interested
in having a girlfriend at all. I find that it’s a tremendous waste of time. PRODUCER: [Off camera] Tell me how you really
feel. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: No, that is how I really
feel! YAGO GONZALEZ: He’s very sure of himself. VANESSA GONZALEZ: He has been a different
kid since he was little. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Well, I really like to
crochet. This is one of the piggies from Angry Birds. VANESSA GONZALEZ: He has come to accept that
difference and embrace it. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Yes, I definitely consider
myself a nerd. VANESSA GONZALEZ: But it has not always been
this good. YAGO GONZALEZ: When we first tested Santiago,
he scored in the 99.99%. VANESSA GONZALEZ: We would explain something
as if we were explaining it to an adult and he would understand. YAGO GONZALEZ: His first interest was rocks
& minerals but he wanted to learn about rocks & minerals from adult books. VANESSA GONZALEZ: At that point he was in
first grade. You could tell that his mind was somewhere
else. YAGO GONZALEZ: He would come back from elementary
school and he would be miserable because he wasn’t being challenged. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: I had teachers who didn’t
really quite get me. It was just a very boring and kinda painful
experience. YONG BAKOS: For exceptionally gifted students
like Santiago, these students are actually bored to tears literally the fact that they’re
being given this material that doesn’t challenge them. It’s as if you and I sat down and we said
our ABCs for about 2 hours. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: In regular school, I found
it was sort of ridiculous to be a nerd. The other kids, they did tease me and kinda
mock me quite a bit. VANESSA GONZALEZ: We knew that he needed to
be somewhere else. God knows what would have happened if we didn’t
guide him the right way. He could have been a disaster. VANESSA GONZALEZ: And then we found Colorado
School of Mines. YONG BAKOS: Colorado School of Mines is actually
a very reputable engineering school here in the front range and actually throughout the
world. VANESSA GONZALEZ: They were willing to take
a chance and Santiago proved that he could do it. Now he can really be himself and relate with
the students. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: [To student] This is really
cool! Just seeing from not knowing at all, it’s
magic. YONG BAKOS: We have all sorts of, let’s call
them weird students, here at Mines so I think that most people on this campus really embrace
that. WILLIAM HOFF: I mean, we’re all kind of nerds
here, so we can interact pretty easily. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: They’re at Mines to learn,
they’re not goofing off and interrupting all the time and I don’t think I’d really want
to have to interact with kids my own age. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: [To professor] So these
sensors are actually a little larger than the other ones. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Currently, this semester,
I’m a research assistant for a professor at Mines. WILLIAM HOFF: I’m working to improve energy
efficiency. Santiago’s developing the sensor network we’re
going to be putting up in the building. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Yeah, I’ve been working
on the algorithm to see what kind of filter would be best for this without having any
signal loss since we can’t get any code on the sun spots so it’s difficult. RESEARCHER: We’ll solve that. I don’t know what it is right now, but we’ll
figure it out. WILLIAM HOFF: Do you want to sketch out what
the code may look like? SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Sure. WILLIAM HOFF: I was really needing someone
to develop that kind of project and Santiago is a perfect fit. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: [To research team] We put
the signal in a low pass filter… YONG BAKOS: He loves being in college and
learning at the pace he needs to be learning at. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Right now, there are quite
a few things in my different classes that are really really interesting. For example, Elements of Computing Systems. TEACHER: Yes, Santiago. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: So is this what other architectures
like x86 and ARM use? TEACHER: The basic principle certainly will
be the same. VANESSA GONZALEZ: It’s really exciting to
see how much he enjoys learning about different things and it’s contagious as well. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: [To teacher] So there are
variations of MIPs? TEACHER: Yes, there are. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: Oh, I see. Thank you. Have a nice weekend. YAGO GONZALEZ: If I had that drive when I
was in college, that would have been fabulous. I’m learning so much from my child now. That’s pretty wonderful. YONG BAKOS: Life for Santiago may be somewhat
of a marathon that he’s already running through and I hope that he keeps the pace. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: After I finish my masters,
I’m thinking about getting a PhD in computer science at Stanford and my ultimate goal is
to work at Apple. YAGO GONZALEZ: It’s the golden age of computers. He lives in the right time I think. He’s a renaissance man. SANTIAGO GONZALEZ: An artist paints a painting
and when he finishes he says, oh wow that’s a very nice painting I like how it turned
out. And it’s the same thing with programming. Going from just a bunch of lines of code to
a finished product that people can enjoy all over the world. It feels really nice. One of my favorite apps I’ve developed is
a slide puzzle. You can play individually and sure that’s
fun, but then you can challenge your friends to see who completes the puzzle the fastest
and it even has built in voice chat so you can talk with someone who’s playing the puzzle
with you even if they’re on the other side of the world.

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