College of Computing undergraduate student Andrew Perry has a knack for finding synergy where some may believe there is none.
Before settling on a major and later becoming Mr. Georgia Tech last fall, he very briefly considered attending the University of Georgia. A talented orator, he is admittedly petrified of public speaking. Despite nearing completion on a degree in computer science, he described himself as “technologically incompetent” when he began his time at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
“I was still using Internet Explorer, if that means anything,” he explained with a laugh. “I had no background in technology and really hadn’t even considered that as a possibility.”
What began as a one-day foray into biology became a desperate search for the right fit, during which Perry considered all options including the possibility of another school. Rather than finding a way to fit his interests to a school, however, he fit his school to his interests.
And because he was at Georgia Tech, as the oft-used phrase goes, he could do that.
What was missing in his early stints as a biology and biomedical engineering student at Tech was the creativity. Growing up, Perry loved extracurricular activities like band or working at a children’s toy store.
He’s a self-described comic book nerd, who nearly lost it when he found out one of his favorites, Spider-Man, had filmed parts of its new Homecoming movie near his house in Peachtree City. He’s even had a brief cameo on the silver screen, acting as an extra on the once-popular Lifetime comedy/drama Drop Dead Diva.
“I was missing this creativity, this design aspect in the curriculum that I had always had growing up,” Perry said. “When I realized I wasn’t happy without that, I was looking basically at all the other majors out there.”
He came across computer science for the first time when he saw a Delta Chi fraternity brother working with it. As Perry watched him work, a flicker of interest appeared. Perry asked him why he chose computer science and was relieved at the answer.
“He said he was missing some kind of creative aspect,” Perry said. “He chose computer science because you have this amazing ability to have your strengths in math and science translate quickly and easily to something tangible. It was the perfect intersection of what I wanted, and it stuck.”
It wasn’t an easy transition for Perry to make. He wasn’t well-versed in the world of technology, and at the time he assumed that everyone else had been coding since birth.
“I thought they were in the womb just hacking away,” he joked. “But I found this sub-community within the College of Computing filled with people like me. People who had come to Georgia Tech and changed majors, or maybe they came to the College of Computing because they took one computer science class in high school and enjoyed it.”
He decided early on that he didn’t need to be an expert. He just needed to be genuinely interested in what he was studying.
Which, he supposes, is what brought him to the world of fashion technology, a field he hopes to make a career upon graduation.
The depth of his expertise in fashion wasn’t much more than that of computer science. He had written a paper about it in English and worked at a wedding dress shop during high school. But that was about it.
“But I was always interested in it,” he said. “I’m one of those people who, if I get interested in rock climbing one week, I’m going to learn all the techniques, the grips, what mountains to climb and where. As soon as I found out that I was interested in fashion and technology, I did my research.”
He found wearable technology and fell in love, landing him and his wearables in the Museum of Design in Atlanta.
“People don’t think of it as art, but it can be,” he said. “You can express yourself through what you wear and how you use it. And Georgia Tech is one of the frontrunners. Thad Starner, Clint Zeagler, Gregory Abowd – all of these guys are amazing. I’ve gone out of my way, changed my academic plan, to take classes with them because of how impactful they are.”
It’s perhaps this trait of Perry’s that led judges and voters to select him Mr. Georgia Tech last fall. Tasked with creating a 15-minute presentation on how he would fix one issue at Georgia Tech, he built a three-dimensional model of a heart made out of churning gears. It was focused on the need to strengthen every part of the Institutional machine to make sure it was running in harmony.
Synergy. Finding commonalities where others believe they don’t exist. He has made a career of it in college and plans to maintain that mindset in the future.