Siena Castellon

London G20

USA/Canada Mathcamp, developing a website, research at UCL and a week as an MPW Ambassador. What a summer!

I had an epic summer. How I chose to spend my summer may sound unconventional, but I loved every minute of it.

I began my summer by attending USA/Canada Mathcamp, a university-level mathematics program for 14-19 year old students who are passionate about maths. The centerpiece of the application involves taking a Qualifying Test: a set of up to 10 math problems designed to be fun, challenging and thought provoking. The problems were unlike any I had ever come across before and are so challenging that you are given up to two months to solve them. Each problem is the type of problem that you have to spend a lot of time thinking about but I was eventually able to solve all the problems, admittedly some more elegantly than others. Imagine my surprise when I received an email congratulating me for having been one of the top worldwide applicants to apply and offering me a place! I was ecstatic!

The beauty of USA/Canada Mathcamp is that everyone there LOVES maths. It is a vibrant community made up of a wide variety of people from all over the world who share a common love of learning and an obsession with maths. What set this camp apart from other programmes I have attended, is the independence we were given. Students were given the choice to attend as many or as few classes as they wanted. Nothing was mandatory. Not surprisingly, since all the students there live and breathe maths, everyone took advantage of the opportunity to learn and expose themselves to as much math as possible. One of my favourite classes turned out to be the mathematics of voting, a subject that was very topical to me given the recent results of Theresa May’s ill advised June general election. I found the class so interesting that I decided to do a project on it that was supervised by one of the faculty members.

In addition to mathcamp, I also continued to work on my website which I created when I was 13 to support and mentor bright kids with learning differences and kids with autism. As a young autistic, dyslexic and dyspraxia woman, I am committed to supporting kids like me and to raising awareness and acceptance of autism.

As part of this commitment, this summer I also completed a work placement at UCL’s Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE), the leading centre for education and social research in the United Kingdom. During my time at CRAE, I worked on several research projects, got to interact with ZENO, a social robot used to teach autistic kids social skills and helped to develop UCL’s support and provision for autistic students to improve their university experience. My time at CRAE was the highlight of my summer. Upon completing my work placement, I was offered an opportunity to continue working with CRAE on ongoing research projects, an opportunity I am extremely excited about.

During my last weeks of the summer, I attended week-long economics and classical civilization programmes at UCL through Debate Chamber. Since I will be taking IGCSEs in both economics and classical civilization, I jumped at the opportunity to get a head start.

Last, but certainly not least, I spent the final week of my summer serving as an MPW Ambassador, assisting in the induction of our new students. I really enjoyed my role because it gave me the opportunity to develop my leadership skills and allowed me to develop friendships with a broad range of students in different year groups and courses that I would otherwise have been unlikely to meet.

As my summer draws to a close and I look forward to the upcoming year, I embark on my Year 11 journey knowing that as an MPW student I am in safe hands and will be well prepared for my upcoming IGCSEs. Before I know it, it will be time to start making plans for next summer. Wherever I go and whatever I may do, I hope it ends up being as epic as this summer.

Siena Castellon