Desert Vista senior Dominic Chen already has a lengthy resume full of academic awards, community service and engineering activities. Now, he has one more prestigious honor to add: Flinn Scholar.

The Flinn Scholarship is given to 20 Arizona students each year. It covers the eight semesters of tuition at an Arizona university, room and board costs and two study abroad trips. The full award is valued at $54,000 plus tuition.

Additionally, Flinn Scholars are mentored by university faculty and community leaders and get to participate in other activities and events especially for scholarship recipients.

Chen plans to study computer science at Arizona State University beginning in the fall. He had considered going to school outside the state, but winning the Flinn made staying in Arizona an easy choice.

“It opens doors to a community of scholars and other students,” Chen said.

He also likes the travel aspect, although he has yet to decide where he’ll go. Chen has lived in several countries, having been born in Beijing and living in Belfast while his father pursued a graduate degree.

Chen’s interest in math, science and engineering goes back to early childhood. His parents encouraged him to explore the subjects, and Chen remembers helping his dad build computers when he was small.

As Chen grew up, it seemed natural to apply those interests in various academic pursuits. He’s been involved with Science Olympiad, the Junior Engineering Technical Society and Desert Vista’s Engineering Club, which participates in robotics competitions.

Chen will participate in the National Underwater Robotics Challenge with Desert Vista’s team this summer. The team builds robots from scratch to address different challenges each year, like opening valves or shooting darts while navigating underwater.

Underwater robotics is a challenge because you need to factor in waterproofing robots and adding more sensors than normally needed on dry land, Chen said.

“It’s really interesting, underwater engineering, and not something you would normally do in high school,” he said.

Chen’s pursuits also led him to Academic Decathlon, a team pursuit that requires students to study several aspects of a single topic and compete based on that knowledge. The team studied the French Revolution this year, covering topics that ranged from history to economics.

Academic Decathlon attracts a wide variety of students with different academic backgrounds, which is something Chen likes.

“You have to motivate each other to study, and you become friends,” he said.

Chen has also been involved in service and leadership roles in community groups. He has served on the Arizona Governor’s Youth Commission, Hope Chinese School’s student council, been a member of the National Honor Society and tutored fellow students in math.

“I don’t think math is that difficult, so I like to work with students to show it’s not something to hate,” Chen said.

Math teacher Jeri Wade, who wrote Chen’s letter of recommendation for the Flinn Scholarship, said Chen has been helpful in assisting fellow students.

“He has knowledge from other cultures, which adds more dimensions to him as a person. He’s really a citizen of the world,” Wade said. “It’s been an honor to have him in class. He’s a great kid.”

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