Humans of Harker: Acquiring skill through self-motivation

Ethan Steeg finds pleasure in robotics and taekwondo


Nilisha Baid

“[What] I enjoy about robotics is being able to come up with an idea of something that you think would work to solve a certain issue, and then being able to pursue that design and see how it works,” Ethan Steeg (12) said.

Entering a local makers’ fair in fifth grade, Ethan Steeg (12) was immediately captivated by the amount and variety of robots that he saw. From then on, he has dedicated year after year to improving his robotics skills through his own self interest.

Outside of academics, one of Ethan’s major hobbies is robotics. He enjoys doing robotics because it requires extensive problem solving skills that are often fun to solve over time.

“[What] I enjoy about robotics is being able to come up with an idea of something that you think would work to solve a certain issue, and then being able to pursue that design and see how it works,” Ethan said.

The local makers’ fair Ethan attended in fifth grade opened his eyes to the uniqueness and complexity of each robot on display and immediately started involving himself with robotics.

“I was able to see a bunch of the different robots that people got to show … there was a giant, robotic exoskeleton and a bunch of other models, and all of those inspired me to get into robotics,” Ethan said.

From sixth grade onward, Ethan has always been involved in robotics of some form, and he has been a member of the Harker robotics team since his freshman year. Ethan began participating in competitions in middle school, starting with a Lego robotics team and keeping up with the subject from there.

Not only did robotics stimulate his intellectual curiosity, but it also inspired Ethan with its endless uses in the real world and its ability to help those less fortunate than him.

“I’ve been enjoying [robotics] and the various applications that it has and the ability to be able to do it for fun but also to be able to help people in the future,” Ethan said.

Ethan’s skill with robotics has also led to his helping people in real life. His work with Silicon Valley Robotics allowed him to create face shields for frontline workers during the coronavirus pandemic and train others to effectively produce face shields as well.

In addition to robotics, Ethan devotes much of his time to taekwondo. Ever since his parents had signed him up for classes when he was 4 years old, he has been continuing his training and is now a black belt and an assistant instructor for his class. However, Ethan’s journey to his level of mastery was not an easy one.

“To get to a black belt, I had to go through a month-long, specialized training. Long story short, [it] is harsh and tough to get through,” Ethan said.

One of those challenges involved having to break a block with his bare hands, which he was able to overcome without much trouble.

“I didn’t actually break the brick on my first try. So being able to break it on my second was an accomplishment enough for me,” Ethan said.

Despite his intense taekwondo skills, Ethan’s friends describe him warmly. Two of Ethan’s closest friends, Amar Karoshi (12) and Jason Lin (12), both characterize him as an incredibly kind person who is always eager to help other people no matter the circumstances.

“Ethan is very wholesome and generally just a very nice and pure person who never really gets mad at you at all,” Amar said.

Jason also describes Ethan as a warm hearted, energetic and selfless person who eschews judgement and meets new people with an open mind.

“He’s probably one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. He’s very bubbly and understanding, and you feel like he accepts everyone for who they are. He’s this very wholesome presence, and I think it’s really funny that one of my few friends who’s a taekwondo black belt is also one of the mildest mannered and nicest people ever,” Jason said.

Besides being a fun and generous friend, Ethan is also diligent and concentrated on whatever tasks he sets out to complete.

“Ethan was a very focused student, and it was a delight to observe his collaborative energy while working with other students,” upper school mathematics Dana Lieberman, who taught Ethan in his junior year, said.

Throughout his life, Ethan credited his undying self-interest and motivation to his success in robotics, taekwondo and various other fields.

“Self-driven interest helped me figure out what I want to pursue in the future and be able to learn new things that I thought I’d honestly never learn,” Ethan said.

An example of his self motivation was when he took the photography class at Harker with barely any prior experience rather than taking pictures with his phone.

“I’ve taken a bunch of classes at Harker that I probably wouldn’t have taken without my own self-driven interest in them,” Ethan said. “For example, in photography, other than taking quick pictures with my phone, I’ve never really had any experience with picture taking. So being able to take that class with just my self-driven interest was interesting.”