At an age when his mates are majorly preoccupied about how they look and whether the opposite sex find them appealing, 17-year-old Nji Collins from Cameroon is already fulfilling his dreams.
On January 30, the teenager from Bamenda in the North-west region of Cameroon was announced by tech giants Google as one of the winners of its prestigious Code-in challenge, the first ever African and black person to do so.
Every year, Google hosts the Google Code-in, a global online competition, where teenagers, usually between the ages of 13 and 17 complete small open source programming tasks. According to Google, 1,340 students from 62 countries completed 6,418 before the end of the competition. And 34 teenagers completed 842 tasks to emerge grand prize winners.
Since the contest began in 2010, no African has ever participated let alone emerged a winner, well, until Collins, a final year student at the Government Bilingual High School, Bamenda, Cameroon.
Collins participated in the Google Code-in with OpenMRS; an open source enterprise electronic medical record system platform.
Collins’s feat is much more remarkable when you consider that he didn’t have access to the Internet (the Cameroonian government shut down the internet in the English-speaking region, where he lives and schools) during the course of the contest. He had to travel 370km (230 miles) to the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde, to submit his entry for the contest.
“When GCI started I was anxious and nervous to some extend… I had to find ways to turn my nervousness into creativity and fun. Participating was super exciting and really exhausting, and at the end, I discovered that I gained a whole new level of experience in the Open source world,” said Collins.
As part of his prize from Google, Nji will spend four days in June at Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters, meeting its top engineers and gaining insight into one of the world’s most successful enterprises.
Collin, just as most of us, would love to work with Google if he gets the chance.
“Hopefully I would like to work there one day, if that is possible,” he says.
At the moment, Nji says he is hard at work building his knowledge of artificial intelligence, neural networks and deep learning. But what does he hope to do with his knowledge in the future?
“I’m trying to develop my own model for data compression, using deep learning and machine learning,” he says.
Watch out world, Collin is coming!
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