Meet Yuhan Liu, a Code/Art alumna currently pursuing Digital Media Design at UPenn. Yuhan represents everything it means to be a Code/Artist – she not only loves coding but is also a true creative and artist.
How did you get started with CodeArt?
I started in middle school. A funny story is that while taking my reading finals, I got an article about increasing the number of women in computer science and using programs for kids to do so. That’s when I heard about Girls Who Code and became really interested. I wrote everything down so I wouldn’t forget it. When I got home, I looked up Girls Who Code programs and found that there was one in my local library so I decided to join it. It was then that I met this amazing group of people and the leader of the club was Amy. I really loved the projects that we did in the community. Eventually, the club became more self directed and that’s when Amy decided to turn it into Code/Art. I started off as a student of the first Code/Art club.
What Code/Art programs did you participate in as a student?
I started in the Code Art Club at Pinecrest Library and I also competed in Code/Art Fest in a bunch of different categories. I really liked the 3D printed art category because I thought it was super cool to model something using software and then actually be able to hold it and touch it once it’s printed.
Did you ever place or win anything at the competition?
I was a finalist in the CodeYourself Competition one year. I think it was 2018. I also won the 3D printed art competiition two years in a row. During the first Code/Art competition I ever competed in, I made this little cheesecake animation and I didn’t place, so I guess I just kept going until I did.
What were some of the takeaways you got from these experiences?
Regardless of whether or not I won the prize for these competitions, I was still really proud of myself for making a project by myself. I kind of fell in love with the process of coding and how all of these different bits and pieces and lines of code came together to create something that was really beautiful in the end. That process has really resonated with me and has kept me motivated now that I am continuing to pursue computer science.
What was your favorite project that you remember creating?
My favorite project, there are so many good ones! I think my self portrait was definitely one of my favorites because it was like a working progess for a year. My first time around, I got honorable mention for a self portrait in which I coded myself riding a horse because I love horseback riding and that year’s theme was to code ourselves with a pet.
I wanted to do something more complicated than just my shoulders up. So I tried coding a horse and then I wanted to try putting myself on top of it. I spent a lot of time adding details to it. I had a lot of fun, even writing up my paragraph that you need to submit with your entry and I had a picture of myself on a horse to submit with it as well. I remember my picture also had the horse that I coded on it. I thought that was really cute and I think it actually inspired the theme for the following year, which was to code yourself doing something you love. I’m really proud that people like this.
You’ve also been a Code/Art instructor. What was that experience like?
I think something that I really took away was putting myself in the shoes of whoever I was trying to reach. As an instructor for Code/Art, I’ve taught younger kids, middle school and younger. I’ve also taught high school kids and teachers when we started doing our PD trainings.
All these groups are quite different in terms of how they interact with technology, their background experience and how comfortable they felt creating new things like art. It became really helpful for me to think about what’s going through their heads as I am trying to teach them or creating lessons that will inspire them. It’s really important to know where they’re coming from and that was something that the Code/Art team definitely helped me with.
Incredible! You’re currently attending UPenn. What are you studying and do you have any idea of what kind of company you want to work for?
Yes. I am currently in the Digital Media Design Program, which is a combination of computer science and art. I’m also interested in entrepreneurship, so perhaps pursuing a minor or a dual degree in that. As for where I’d like to work, alums from my program have gone on to work at places like Disney or Pixar. I think that would be super cool because it’s such a creative environment. But I’m also really interested in startups and being entrepreneurial or starting something new and kind of raising that company from the ground up, whether it’s from a financial perspective or a marketing perspective or even the process of coding the actual product. I kind of want to explore every aspect of that while keeping art and CS close by.
How has Code/Art impacted your career, college, and life trajectory as a whole?
Code/Art was my first introduction to coding ever, and I think it has definitely impacted my perspective when tackling computer science as a whole. I feel like before joining the coding program, the only real reference I had of a computer scientist was perhaps my dad, who did a little bit of coding. It’s not where he worked, but he always had this idea that computer science is like math. It seemed super difficult, super time consuming, and male dominated. I think Code/Art really broke those stereotypes for me, and it also made me more open to see what computer science could produce. And even now, I’m doing something similar to the lessons that we teach at Code/Art, which is creating art with code. That is something that I’ve always been very much interested in.
That’s awesome. Why would you encourage younger girls to participate in programs like Code Art?
I think everyone should participate in programs like Code/Art. I don’t think it’s an experience you can necessarily get elsewhere. I think it’s very tailored to young girls and who they are and what they might be interested in. I think Code/Art really understands where young girls are coming from, how they think, and that they have this, I guess, desire to create and to explore art and explore new things and to learn. And I think Code/Art really encourages those sentiments.