Todd Beamer High School graduate Sam Bird, front, presents her graduation speech to her classmates through sign language at the school’s graduation ceremony June 17 as Agnes Llamas interprets. Bird, who is deaf, received a cochlear implant as a child and that, combined with a video game her father got her as a young child, spurred a lifelong interest in technology, games and computers. She will attend the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York in the fall and study computer science. Photo courtesy Federal Way Public Schools

For Todd Beamer graduate Bird, technology a life-changer, future career

Todd Beamer High School graduate Sam Bird has always been interested technology, even as a young child.

First, her father got Bird her first video game when she was 4.

“And I fell in love with it,” Bird, who is deaf, said through an interpreter. “I started to get more interested in games and technology.”

She also received a cochlear implant as a young child, and because that piece of technology improved her hearing and opened her world to more sounds, she became even more curious about technology.

Bird, who was born with profound hearing loss and can hear a little bit out of her right ear without devices, said she enjoys the freedom that her cochlear implant and hearing aid give her because they allow her to improve her speech and do things like listen to music through special headphones designed for the hearing impaired.

“I like it because it’s advanced technology, and it helps me to hear and be more aware of my surroundings, and I always want to help make things more accessible for people through technology,” she said.

Bird is turning that interest in technology into a career. Beginning this fall she will attend the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, a college of Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. There, she intends to study computer science.

She said she enjoys computer science because it has a mix of challenges and requires logical thinking, mathematics skills and some science.

“And I really like to code because I can see what is there after I made it,” Bird said.

While Bird said she is not entirely sure what her classes will be while attending college, she would really like to study and become a software engineer, who design computer software and fix code to improve programs. She said, last year during an internship through Expedia, her mentor was a software engineer, designing websites and software, for the cruise department of the travel company.

She said she really enjoyed that experience, but she aspires to someday work at Microsoft and ultimately wants to create computer software that is designed to help people, especially people with disabilities.

Bird said, although technology has opened her life to new experiences, she still experiences periods where she feels isolated, and that includes in her career field of choice. Bird said she has taken a number of workshops and camps for different computer-related subjects through the years and frequently found she was the only girl participating.

“It was a little awkward being alone and deaf,” she said.

Since that experience, Bird has purposefully pursued opportunities working with other girls interested in computers.

“That’s why I joined Girls Who Code and ChickTech — because it is important to get girls into computer science — to help empower them and give them confidence,” she said. “Now, I’m much more confident in myself because I know I’m not the only girl out there interested in computers.”

Bird said knowing she will attend college with other young women who are both hearing impaired and interested in computers excites her, but she admits to being a little scared as well.

“I want to say I’m excited and nervous at the same time because I’m going out of the state where I grew up, but my dad’s family lives near Rochester, so that will help me,” Bird said.

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