Featured, Spotlight

Andrew Woo – Problem-Solving and Perseverance

Red lights flash overhead as warning sirens alternately raise and lower their alarms throughout the compound. A tense terror has pervaded the atmosphere of the dark room. The computers cast their cold blue light onto the pale faces of the onlookers, unmoved by the distress of their rapidly beating hearts or the panic in their eyes.

The door from the hallway opens, allowing the LED light to seep in for a short moment before a large uniformed man enters and all but blocks out the rays. His voice is gruff and irritated. “So what is it? What are we dealing with here?” He’s directed his question specifically toward one of the figures seated before a computer. The figure pauses for an instant—he clearly knows a response is expected from him. But rather than take his attention away from what he’s engaged in, he mumbles something and turns back to his code.

From one of the other stations, a young woman turns away from her screen to inform the officer. “It appears to be the computers themselves, Sir. Artificial Intelligence Experiment #5 broke out of its cyber-containment block, and is attempting to unblock the others. We’re trying to stop it, but it’s locking us out of our own system.” As she was saying this, the code she was working on was covered by the large words “ACCESS DENIED” blinking across the screen. The officer looked around the room, and more than half of the screens displayed the same message.

One by one, the world’s best programmers were being cut off from their attempts to stop the malicious artificial intelligence they created.

**20 minutes later**

Only one programmer remained, the one who had refused to let his concentration lapse. Everyone had crowded around him in desperate anticipation. His success or failure could determine the fate of humankind.

Suddenly, all the lights went out and the screens went black. Darkness reigned for what seemed like an eternity. No one moved. No one dared to speak. They were all frozen with trepidation of what would come next.

Then, one by one, the screens powered back up. The lights flickered back on. All was still, and all was silent.

Finally, one of the coders mustered the courage to speak: “Wh-what happened? What did you do?”

The last programmer turned around in his swivel chair to face his expectant—and still apprehensive—spectators.

“Experiment #5 has returned to its restraining block.”

His matter-of-fact statement was met with incredulity. “Well how’d you manage that?”

His complexion was composed, as always. “It was simple really. I fed it a string of the worst knock-knock jokes I could think of.”

Andrew Woo, master programmer, junior in high school, and our subject for this month’s article, currently lives in Morocco. He’s lived in France, Georgia, and Boston, MA. He is Korean, although he has only been to Korea twice, and never for long-term periods.

A problem-solver and detail-lover at heart, he holds reservations about the accuracy of personality tests like the MBTI, but says that according to the 16personalities test, he is an ISTJ-A, with 99% Introversion.

He enjoys listening mostly to rock—be it indie, alternative or classic—and names BANNERS, Imagine Dragons, Coldplay, Elvis Presley, and The Eagles as some of his favorites, though he also enjoys the styles of Owl City and Avicii.

He loves movies made by Disney and Pixar, with Coco being his favorite (until they release new material, when he’s expecting it to quickly change).

Choosing his favorite book is a harder choice, but he settles on Crime & Punishment and Harry Potter for standalone and series, respectively. Robinson Crusoe and the Lord of the Rings take second place.

He’s not sure what college he will attend yet, but he’s aiming for MIT, and keeping Georgia Tech as an alternative that’s closer to home. What he will end up studying depends on which university he goes to, but he’s considering Aerospace Engineering, Bioengineering (Biomechatronics), and Cybersecurity.

Programming is a hobby and a passion close to Andrew’s heart. He loves research and problem-solving, and programming fits neatly between the two, so whatever he studies, he will probably continue to pursue it.

Andrew prefers the more poetic Korean translation, but his favorite Scriptural passage is 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

He likes the message of perseverance and pushing ourselves to find success and serve God, and the personal message he wishes to leave the readers with follows these themes seamlessly: “we all have to remember that though we’ll all one day graduate, get a job, get married, etc., our primary goal is always to give glory to God, wherever, whenever, and always.”

May we all go forth and run our races with that kind of determination and earnestness.


  • Siblings: 2
  • Favorite Colors: Green or Orange
  • TPS Classes 2018-19: Precalculus (Honors), AP US History, AP English Language & Composition, AP Biology


  1. With my own experience in programming, I doubt you can stop a malicious AI experiment from taking over the world by using knock-knock jokes.

    Well then, maybe you could try […]


  2. Nicely done!

  3. Wow Dobby~ you actually made my little brother sound cool! Ahahha. What a feat. Great article ? props to your writing abilities hehe.

    @Andrew tho…I thought you wanted to be a doctor? ?

  4. Given my complete lack of success the last few times I tried responding to individual comments, I will now completely forgo trying to, and shall reply to all of them at once again. If you have any complaints, you may take them up with Customer Service.

    @Luke Perhaps you’re right. But then, it seemed to work for Andrew, and who am I to question him? =P
    @Andrew Haha I’m so glad you like it! ‘Twas quite fun to write.
    @Rachel Hey what can I say, he’s a cool guy! Nothing I can write can begin to do him justice. I mean, he single-handedly saved the world from being destroyed by an AI experiment gone horribly wrong! Plus, I seem to recall he’s the leader of Mars, so that’s got to count for something, right?

    • Customer Service being the SE team. xD

      Sorry about the comments, everybody. Their ways are mysterious, even to me. *whacks clay with a dead fish*

      Excellent article, as always. Great job. =)

      • @Corrie Anna I mean I wasn’t gonna call you guys out /by name/ or anything, but yeah I guess that’s pretty much the case. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        Why thank you! As I said above (hopefully—assuming this comment posts properly), I had a lot of fun writing it. I’m thankful I have this opportunity to feel justified about spending my time on creative writing x)