EHS Student Feature - Bien Hou

EHS Computer Programming Whiz Racks Up Accolades and $60K in College Scholarships
Posted on 06/07/2023

June 6, 2023 - Eureka, CA - Many high school students dream of attending college and winning scholarships to help get them there. One student at Eureka High School (EHS) is making that dream a reality - and in a big way!

EHS Senior Bien Hou is a computer science whiz with a passion for programming. Her computer science knowledge, mixed with her ambition and determination, has been the perfect recipe to rake in more than $60,000 in college scholarships to kick start her higher education. 

“I really like programming because of the creativity involved in it. You can program almost anything you want as long as you have the imagination,” said Hou.  

Hou specializes in Python programming - which is used in machine learning, web development, desktop applications, and many other fields. It is considered one of the most popular programming languages for Web Developers, Data Scientists, and Machine Learning Engineers.

Hou is also interested in cyber security, artificial intelligence, and computational statistics (the bond between statistics and computer science) after taking an online course through Stanford University. She learned that statistical techniques have become essential in helping computer scientists make informed decisions about their data and improve the efficiency and accuracy of their algorithms.

“That course really showed me data analysis and how you can manipulate data. It interested me because I took AP Statistics at Eureka High and I really liked that course,” said Hou.

Over the past few years Hou has worked closely with her teachers and the EHS Counseling Department to explore and apply to a vast and growing range of computer science opportunities, competitions, programs, and scholarships.

“My teachers and counselors have been really supportive. They have always been the ones who recommended me to different programs. Without them I probably wouldn't have even known some of these scholarships existed,” said Hou.

Sarah Cruz is Hou’s current counselor at Eureka High. She says, “Bien is exceptional. She drives most of her own learning but she’ll come to me with ideas, scholarships, and things she wants to do, and I help her figure it out.”

Hou was selected into the Dell Scholars Class of 2023 - receiving a $20,000 scholarship, a laptop computer, textbook credits, personalized academic & financial support, and more. Being selected as a Dell Scholar means Bien represents the top 4 percent of all Dell Scholar applicants. 

Most recently she was awarded a $40,000 Amazon Future Engineer Scholarship. This Amazon program was created to inspire and propel the next generation of innovators. Scholars are also offered access to a paid internship related to their field of study after freshman year of college. 

Hou explained that to secure these scholarships she needed to state why she is interested in technology, why she desires a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), her relative accomplishments, and personal challenges. She also shared that she is an advocate for computer literacy and appreciates how the skills she has learned can be used to tackle real-world problems. 

“I know that computer science may sound daunting or challenging, but it's a very important skill, even if you’re not interested in it. Technology is really advancing so I think it’s important to know a lot about computer science.”

Bien is right about that. Computing and computational thinking are increasingly important 21st-century skills. Given that technology increasingly permeates every aspect of society, the U.S. Department of Labor states that experience in computing and technology is in high demand by virtually every industry. Adding that computing as a type of career offers job security, high salaries, and meaningful work. For someone choosing to study computing now, the prospect of finding a job in the field is extremely high. By 2026, the Labor Department predicts 3.5 million computing-related job openings in the U.S.

However, far too few people are being trained to fill these potential jobs. That’s one reason why STEM scholarships and other STEM opportunities are increasing in numbers and becoming more prominent.

Upon entering high school Hou had a passion for art and creative writing. However, computer science became Hou’s primary interest her freshman year after being exposed to coding, web design, and animation software in Eureka High’s Exploring Computer Science class, with now retired teacher Aletta Sauer. Sauer explains how the field of computer science is important no matter a student’s interests because of how it can be used to elevate those interests. Interests such as photography or film, journalism or creative writing, art or music, math, science, agriculture, sports, you name it. 

Hou says, “At first I didn’t even know what computer science was, but after taking the class, learning HTML, and learning how to create websites, that really got me into coding and how it’s a mixture of creativity and writing scripts.” 

Just as Hou’s interest for computer science grew, Covid hit the end of her freshman year and students were sent to distance learning. However, that didn’t hinder Hou, but rather, propelled her. 

Sauer explains, “Because of Covid a lot of programs that used to be in-person - such as summer programs like Girls Who Code - now offered virtual sessions. So that opened a door for Bien to participate in programs that she might not otherwise would have had access to.”

Since that door opened, in a just few years Hou has racked up a long list of accomplishments and participated in a multitude of programs such as Girls Who Code, Biogen-MIT BioTech in Action, The Lawrence Berkeley Science Accelerating Girls Engagement in STEM (SAGE Camp), The Humboldt County Office of Education Technology Exploration Summer Institute (TESI), and a Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institute Artificial Intelligence course. Plus she’s completed four College of the Redwoods Courses: Engineering Design Graphics, Intro to Cybersecurity, General Psychology and College Trigonometry. 

One of her greatest accomplishments is being the Founder and President of the SkillsUSA Cyber Club at Eureka High. She helps students find interest in computer science and programming and even writes weekly lessons and teaches her members to code using Python, providing the ability to create programs and games. 

“I always really liked teamwork and collaboration with other students. Some people in my club have really started to like coding. So I’m glad they can find new interests in something I can help them excel at,” said Hou. 

Hou is a CyberStart National Finalist, a QuestBridge College Prep Scholar, won an NCWIT Aspirations in Computing award, and most recently led the EHS Cyber Club to third place in the NorCalCyber Mayors Cup - a competition hosted by an organization that provides students with an opportunity to engage in team-based learning and explore cybersecurity careers. 

“Whether it's participating in a summer program or leading the EHS cyber club - Bien brings kindness, joy, and intellectual curiosity. That inspires people around her,” said Sauer. 

But the road hasn’t been an easy one for Hou, moving back-and-forth from the United States to her home country of China, from three years of age until permanently settling in Eureka in 5th grade. Saying, “I was behind in English and even a little behind in Chinese. So that was a difficult time.”

Now Hou is not only fluent in Chinese Mandarin and English but literate in German, recently being recognized with a CA State Seal of Biliteracy. She is also in the top 10 % of the 2023 EHS graduating class and was recognized as one of the ‘Girls of the Month’ for May by Soroptimist International of Humboldt Bay.

Sauer says, “She brings a lot of grit and resilience. She has to work hard to achieve all the things she's done, but she doesn’t give up. So it’s wonderful to see her being recognized for the positive energy and passion she brings to STEM.”

Hou has proven to be an inspiration to not only her peers, but set a precedent to what young women right here in Humboldt can achieve in the field of STEM. Sauer says that since Bien participated in Girls Who Code, five other young women have applied and been accepted to that summer program.

“Then they bring that joy into their own classes and that's how it spreads. That’s how we can create a culture in Eureka and Humboldt County that says, young women can be successful in STEM and those dreams are possible,” adds Sauer. 

Hou will be a first generation college student. After high school she plans to attend the University of Southern California. She looks forward to participating in school clubs, conducting research in the field of technology, and working on projects and innovations that would solve problems and benefit communities.

Hou made it a point to thank all of the teachers and counselors whose guidance and support helped her throughout her remarkable high school experience. Congratulations to Eureka High School Senior Bien Hou. Thank you Eureka High Staff for helping Bien reach new heights and achieve her goals. 

See Bien Hou’s Video Story Feature here:
Eureka High Computer Programming Whiz Racks Up Accolades and $60K in Scholarships

Eureka City Schools (ECS) is proud to offer computer science and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) curriculum at all of its school sites and is happy to see the opportunities and aspirations that those programs can foster. 

Press Contact:
Sierra Speer Dillon
Communications and Marketing Coordinator
Eureka City Schools
[email protected]