YouthSpark Profile: Patraporn Leelaprachakul

YouthSpark Profiles highlight young people in Asia Pacific who are dedicated to changing the world through technology, and inspiring others along the way.

Name: Patraporn Leelaprachakul
Country: Thailand
Occupation: Information and Communication Engineering Student of Chulalongkorn University

Ever since the age of 14, Patraporn Leelaprachakul has been interested in computer programming. This passion was further fuelled by her participation in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup in 2012. She was later selected to become a Microsoft Student Partner and also participated in the Microsoft Academy for College Hires (MACH) programme, designed to help promising students accelerate their careers and become future leaders in the technology industry.

Through these engagement and learning experiences, Patraporn realised the many positive impacts that technology can provide people. This encouraged her to further contribute to society through her knowledge and passion of programming. One such example was her participation in developing an Augmented Reality (AR) application for wheelchair users called Wheel-Go-Round, which won a gold medal in the Mekong Business Challenge 2013/14.

What made you join YouthSpark?
I have always loved the idea of contributing to society, and I always do my best to work towards that goal. YouthSpark was an opportunity that allowed me to put my words into action by putting my skills and experience to use in helping others.

What was your YouthSpark project about and what was your role in it?
My YouthSpark project was called Wheel-Go-Round, and I was a developer on the team that made it. It guides wheelchair users to find places that are wheelchair-friendly and easily accessible. 

What was the most challenging problem for the project and how did you tackle it?
One of our concerns when developing Wheel-Go-Round was whether our users would be able to read complex maps. After all, it takes a while to orient yourself to even the most basic of maps, so our focus shifted to making it more convenient for our users. In developing the navigation app, we made use of augmented reality (AR) to provide wheelchair users with updated information on specific places or facilities that are easily accessible and wheelchair-friendly. The user simply has to select their destination and once activated, the app will suggest the most accessible path available. It’s simple and easy to use.

Can you tell us about your experience learning to code?
Since my father had always been interested in information technology, I was exposed to IT at a very young age. I started programming at the age of 14 with Q Basic at my school.

I also became proficient at programming languages such as HTML and PHP by the time I was 16. During that period, I had begun thinking about studying computer programming at university. So, for a start, I joined the computer club at my school to polish my skills further.

Subsequently, when I was a freshman in 2012, I took part in my first Microsoft Imagine Cup. However, at the time, I didn’t know anything about C# programming. In order to complete the project, I did a lot of self-studying and eventually finished the assignment properly.

That whole experience left quite an impression on me, and until now, I try to take part in any programme that Microsoft is hosting, including getting involved with the Microsoft Student Partner and Intern to MACH programmes.

What are your future plans after university?
Ever since I’ve joined the MACH programme, I was really impressed by what the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industry has to offer in terms of career opportunities. If given a chance, I would love to have the opportunity to work for Microsoft, for it has helped me become who I am today.

Eventually, I aim to pursue a master’s degree in the STEM field, be it software engineering or a related discipline. By improving my skills in programming, I hope to be able to manage an entire software project one day.

 Patraporn Leelaprachakul (first from the right) at the launch of Wheel-Go-Round.

Are there any tips you would like to give people who are interested in programming?
There is no fixed method to start learning, so I recommend that they always go wherever their inspiration leads them. Most importantly, they should always continue to challenge themselves—to go on improving even after they have achieved their goals.

I aspire to ... use my knowledge, experience and passion to keep contributing to society.

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