Discus Award Winner
Daniel van der Merwe
12th Grade, TN
Technology has been my passion for as long as I can remember. When I was 12, I learned my first programming language, BASIC. At 13, I built my first computer. I mastered HTML, CSS, and PHP and then started a website design business, and also donated websites to nonprofit organizations. I also started tinkering with robotics, and I competed in FIRST Lego League as well as many robotic events in Science Olympiad. Now, I own a blog called VusaVusa that reviews technology devices and accessories. I started the 4-H Computers and Technology project group which meets once a month to discuss technology and I won the 4-H Computers and Technology project at the state level. I have produced over 30 YouTube videos on coding tutorials and technology reviews, totaling over 200,000 views.
My primary focus in community service has been at an inner city youth organization, SOAR. I have volunteered my time there to improve the computer literacy of the youth, through teaching computer classes and updating their computer lab. In 2010, I received a grant to remodel parts of SOAR’s kitchen under Make a Difference Day. This summer, I hosted a fundraising party that raised $125 for strategy board games for SOAR. I also spent time teaching the games to the children. In December 2012, I hosted a quiz night that raised $110 for computers for SOAR. I have also volunteered over 500 hours in my church’s technical department, volunteered for a local candidate’s campaign for Governor of Tennessee, helped at Operation Military Kids events, and run the Angel Tree program at my church.
Last year, I became an AP Scholar with Distinction by averaging a score of 4 over 5 tests. I was captain of my Science Olympiad team and during my years on the team, I have amassed 36 medals at regional and state levels. I captained my quiz team for the past two years and we won a state history bowl and reached semifinals of East TN Scholars Bowl. I competed in National History Day the past 5 years, and last year I won the state level and a trip to the national event with a website on the history of quantum mechanics. In my junior year, my Stock Market Game team came 1st out of 456 teams in my region. I placed 5th nationally in an affiliated investing essay competition, Invest Write. In my junior year, I successfully completed an online Artificial Intelligence course taught by Stanford.