My name is John Parsons. I’m a senior in high school. I’m a freshman in college. When I’m not working on academics, I’m working at RMC Research Corporation as an IT intern, working on my business (SofSolve LLC), golfing, building robots, or living an otherwise normal teenage life. This blog began as a work project to keep track of what I’m doing but has already begun to morph into a personal tech blog. I hope you find it enjoyable!

I got my start in technology when I was two or three years old. My dad was the president and founder of a technology company called Micro Integration that was based out of western Maryland. Part of the computer room in my house was cordoned off; it had a copy machine that I’m sure cost a big chunk of change in 1997. On Friday nights, my dad would take me into the off-limits area and let me make color copies to my heart’s content. He also let me use our computer. I figured out how to check my mom’s email and began to alert her whenever she got a new message.

John as a Baby

Who’s this little guy?

My family moved to New Hampshire when I was 5. It was then that I started developing an interest in airplanes. By the time I was 7, I was in flight school. Though I was ten years under the minimum age to solo, I learned the fundamentals of flying in a Cessna 172. I learned how to recover from stalls, take off, land, turn and fly a traffic pattern – all without being able to reach the rudder pedals! However, I was too young and flying was too expensive, so I had to give up my dreams of getting a private pilot’s license. (Now that I’m old enough to get a license, my parents won’t let me. Something about “college.”) Another problem was that flying involves a lot of math and planning – determining course from heading without a flight computer requires trigonometry. I was a smart seven-year-old, but I wasn’t doing trig!

Thinking back on it, I used to file flight plans with the comment “seven-year-old pilot” or “eight-year-old pilot.” That must have freaked some people out.

Intro Flight

Cleared for takeoff, captain!

One of the other really good things to come out of Maryland was my love of golf. We had two of the best neighbors anyone could ever ask for – a man named Tim and his wife, Ginny. Tim made it his mission to turn me into a golfer and he succeeded. He started by taking me to the course to wash balls in the golf cart, but now we play golf together. It’s really special. My mom and I go down to Maryland every year to visit him (Ginny has passed away and Tim is 90).

John and Tim

Golf student next to golf master.

I started attending a summertime golf camp when I was 5 or 6, which made me fall even more in love with the game. It was there that I first started getting curious about programming. I’d heard you could make video games in C++ and I wanted to make one for my golf coach to give to kids as a prize. Of course, I underestimated how hard it would be to learn the syntax, let alone create a game with graphics (around 2002 with whatever DirectX version was around then, not with XNA or GDI). My dad talked me out of getting a C++ book when we were at the book store. I sometimes wonder how different my life would be if he hadn’t. Would I hate programming? Would I be an incredible programmer? I’m glad things worked out the way they did.

The single most influential moment in my life came in the fall of 2003. I was bored one afternoon, trying to find something to watch on TV. I came across a show called Robot Wars which looked pretty interesting to an eight-year-old. It looked kind of mature, because you know, robot fighting is just that BA, so I asked my mom if I could watch it and she let me. Thank goodness she did. I instantly fell in love with robot fighting. My dad took me to a local event, Pound of Pain 6, where we saw small robots (150 gram to 12lb weight classes) fight. I loved it even more. Our first competition came in February of 2004, where our 150g fairyweight took second place and our 1lb antweight took something like sixth.

Robot Damage

Part of what I love about robot fighting is the power you can feel. This is damage our 12lb robot “Tough Nut” took en route to placing 3rd at Motorama 2012.

I finally started programming in sixth grade. My friend tried to convince me to try Python, but my dad talked me into VB.NET. As with robotics, I fell in love. It was like combining the fun and expression of art with the problem-solving components of math. I coded project after project, and after a few months I decided to switch to C#. I picked up a few other languages in subsequent years. I’m pretty good with JavaScript and HTML/CSS. I’ve also tried NASM-style assembly, C, Objective-C, C++, F#, J#, various BASIC dialects, Python, CIL and GCode. I’ve written everything from mobile web apps using jQuery Mobile to C# web applications to windows applications. I even ported one of my C# programs to Python with a GUI library and ran it on Ubuntu.

So what am I up to now? I’m getting ready for the rest of my life. As a senior, I’m beginning the college application process. I’m applying to most of the nation’s top engineering schools with hopes that my strong academic record, standardized test scores, and dual passion for robotics and programming will help me get in. I am a freshman at MIT, with full intention of majoring in Course 6-3, Computer Science and Engineering. I am also developing a web application called GradeSolve.

John at MIT

In front of the dome at MIT, two years before I returned again as a prefrosh.

My life has been an incredible journey – I’ve had a lifetime of amazing experiences in just eighteen years. I look forward to what the next eighteen hold for me!

John in a KC135

I guess I fly KC135s now, too.

(John Huff) I also give cool high school graduation speeches while wearing unnecessarily bright caps.


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