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10 Questions with Claire Wang ’23

Joining the Andover community last Fall Term, Claire Wang ’23 is a new Lower from Los Angeles, Calif. Aside from her interest in theater productions and meeting new friends, Wang currently serves as the executive director of AngelHacks, an organization dedicated to teaching computer science to students in L.A.

1. Can you tell us about AngelHacks?

AngelHacks is a hackathon for literally everyone, but we really emphasize beginner interaction. I started it back in 2018 after attending a super fun meetup with a bunch of other Hack Club leaders. We were able to inspire a bunch of people to really get into coding and raise a lot of money, so that was really awesome. Unfortunately, the second iteration had to be online because of the quite unfortunate lockdown but it actually happened to help us in the long term. We had more than a thousand attendees from sixth grade to working-age and I spent the entire weekend awake. There were 16 continuous hours of workshops from people like the head artists of “Minions” and “The Simpsons,” NASA Ames Research Center scientists, the founder of Github, and a whole bunch of extremely fun workshops. A lot of Andover students attended too. I’m the executive director at AngelHacks and there’s also a team behind it. Additionally, there were so many kind souls who volunteered to be mentors and teachers and we were able to get more than 300 project submissions. Some of our cooler prizes were a year’s worth of ramen, your age in pounds of slime, AirPods, a Tesla factory tour, and an all-expenses-paid trip to Pinnacle Hacks.

2. How are you able to run the event 100 percent free? What were some challenges that came along?

I was able to run AngelHacks through funding from a lot of very generous sponsors like Procter & Gamble, Frank Foundation, Github, Repl.it, Comcast, and more. Additionally, we were able to talk to many software companies about helping mentor or providing in-kind sponsorships like free software or tutorials. Those really enhance the experience of a hackathon because attendees have the tools they need to create. In our first integral reinforcement learning iteration, Snapchat threw us for a loop the week before by telling us we had to have every attendee sign a whole list of forms in case of anything going wrong at their headquarters. Additionally, if there were anything that went wrong, my parents would be legally responsible which they did not have the ability to deal with. That was a huge stressor on running AngelHacks 1.0.

3. Five years ago, you starred on the TV show, Child Genius. Were there changes in your daily lives?

There occasionally are people who stop me at stores or whatnot and say I look familiar. It turns out my name is not as common as I thought, so people have recognized me like that. Additionally, after the airing of Child Genius, there were some interviews I went to at various TV and radio stations. Other than that, it’s an old chapter of my life and to be honest, I sometimes cringe at some of the things I’ve said and done on the show. The great thing is I made some amazing friends that I’m still in contact with today, and that’s really the most valuable thing.

4. What were your experiences like at Ad Astra?

Ad Astra was really a weird school, in the best of ways. Some anecdotes were a huge water blaster fight where we had weeks in advance to build forts, pressure guns, and various contraptions to get as many of the other teams wet so we could capture the flag. We have speakers visit us every Friday and I had a lot of opportunities to talk to some pretty inspiring figures and even sometimes work with them on projects or products. One of the hardest classes I took was a Haskell & Combinatorial Logic course where we learned Haskell to make a hyper-realistic ray tracing program. That was quite challenging and I still don’t think I know much about Haskell. 

5. Did you get to have any personal interaction with Elon Musk?

Since I went to Ad Astra and was also school president for two years, he visited a few of our events, which was interesting. Also, at the end of the year, I presented a neuroscience project (MIRAI) at an University of California, Los Angeles symposium with him in attendance as well.

6. How did you start the Hack Club?

I found out about Hack Club a few years ago during a coding challenge on Repl.it, where there was some prize associated with checking out the website. From that moment, I was hooked. There were so many amazing people in the community, Ad Astra was extremely supportive of me starting a large Hack Club, and I was inspired by the many people in Hack Club that loved coding and making things as well. Now, I work part-time at Hack Club to keep the community wholesome, welcoming, and technical. It really is the best job and I have met so many people in so many countries—it’s very much changed my life.

7. As the Mind Sports Olympiad 2020 Speed-Reading Champion, any tips on speed-reading?

To be honest, speed-reading is one of those skills that stemmed from just me reading too much. My elementary school teachers hated me because I read in class all the time and my librarian had to prohibit me from checking out more books from the school library because of complaints from my parents. Some tips [I have] are to not look back when reading and not read the words aloud in your mind. I think if you can force yourself to just go forward even if you might not fully know what you’re reading, you’ll eventually develop the speed to comprehend things faster.

8. Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I’m really interested in computational neuroscience and just biotechnology in general, so that’s definitely a field I want to get into. I have absolutely no idea what I want to do just a few years from now, so I don’t know what job I’d have. I do hope I can be doing something that betters the lives of others, and maybe in the field of biology?

9. What are some goals you want to achieve during your time at Andover?

I’m so excited to finally be on campus at Andover next year. Some things I want to achieve is to do more sports and possibly join the golf team or some other sport. I also want to improve my instrument skills since I’ve been very lazy during quarantine. In the theme of new things to learn, I want to get better at hip hop dance and maybe theater. While I might have not stepped foot on campus, I really want to spend time in the makerspace sometime and learn to make things. It looks so insanely cool in videos.

10. What are your favorite Netflix shows or entertainment for your free time?

Some of my favorite pieces of visual entertainment include “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” “Sherlock,” D.C. Comics, Marvel, and “Star Trek.” I also read a lot. Currently, my favorite author is Michael Chabon and especially his book “The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.” It’s so well written and not shy on the details, definitely a recommendation too.