PORTLAND — Jacob Vachon is a math whiz with a passion for computer programming.

He will graduate from Deering High School on June 6 and this fall will head to the University of Maine, where he’s been accepted into the honors college.

“I love math; it’s a lot of fun,” Vachon said this week.

He credits computer science teacher Jeff Borland with inspiring him to really get into the nuts and bolts of programming.

What Vachon likes the most about computer programming is that “it’s like a puzzle and the methodology is not what’s important. You can pursue what seems most logical to you” as long as a working model is the end result.

“Programming is a lot of fun. You get to use your brain and be creative,” he said. “There’s a lot of freedom and the answer is not always obvious.”

The classes Vachon took this year were almost all college courses. He also pursued an independent study with Borland.

Through a partnership between Deering and local colleges, Vachon was able to take two courses at the University of Southern Maine in the fall and four courses at Southern Maine Community College this spring.

At USM Vachon took a class in algorithms and programming and also reached outside of his comfort zone to take a course in introductory psychology.

At SMCC, Vachon took pre-calculus and microeconomics along with astronomy and an English class.

It was part of his goal to rack up college credits in high school to limit the cost of tuition once he graduated and was ready to move on to college full time.

Although he’s fascinated by the challenges of higher level math and computer programming, Vachon said his interests are actually quite diverse and he really enjoyed both his astronomy and psychology classes.

Through the psychology course, which Vachon said was zombie-themed, he learned a lot about human behavior and “why we do certain things.” He also was very interested to learn about how “memory can be wonky at times. It was a really interesting class.”

His astronomy course included a lot of math, but Vachon said what was most interesting was learning about black holes, whose existence was recently proved by an image released in early April.

Vachon has been teaching himself the Python programming language During his independent studies. His goal is to build a functioning replica of the classic Snake computer game.

He said Borland’s classes are all taught in Java and he chose to learn Python because the name “sparked my interest.” He said Java and Python are like moving between English and French: some of the language is very similar but “there are also major differences.”

While Vachon is very interested in computers and what they can be programmed to do, he doesn’t own a smartphone and has no social media presence. He mostly chats with friends while playing interactive video games online.

He hopes to maybe have a career in creating video games, but Vachon also recognizes that computers can be used for more practical things and that cybersecurity is a growing field that’s of vital importance.

He also has “great respect for the military” and might be interested in coding for the armed services.

What Vachon most likes about video games, he said, is that they’re not only fun, but playing them has helped strengthen his relationships with family and friends, particularly his brother, who is 12 years older.

Some of his favorite games are not the “run and gun” variety. One of the games he enjoys the most is called Uncharted, and while there is some shooting that goes on, what Vachon likes is solving the mystery.

Vachon has earned a science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM endorsement, at Deering and was a member of the math team. He also took part in the SeaPerch underwater robotics program and helped set up the school’s special STEM room.

Overall, he said, Deering has provided him with “a lot of really good opportunities.”

Outside of Deering, Vachon has a black belt in karate and has also been a member of the Special Winning Attitude Team, or SWAT, at Fournier’s Karate gym. He’s also taken guitar lessons.

Through karate, Vachon said he’s learned important life lessons, including self-control, self-respect and self-confidence, while also learning to respect others.

“It’s all about how to use your power for good,” he said.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Jacob Vachon is graduating from Deering High School on June 6 and has been accepted into the Honors College at the University of Maine.

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