Ekpo often broke into a grin or chuckled when sharing his story about discovering a love for computer science and deciding to leave his home in Calabar, Nigeria, to come to BYU-Idaho.
“I think I have always been a curious person, wondering how things work and why they work the way they do,” Ekpo said.
When he got his first phone and computer, he started tinkering with them to figure out everything the devices could do.
“Of course it led to break(ing) a few things, and I had to fix them,” Ekpo said.
After high school, Ekpo interned at a computer institute program and it changed the course of his life. On his street, he “became known as “the computer guy” and it became obvious to him what he wanted to do.
Ekpo started reading books and researching about computer science and the specific fields he could study. He discovered computer science was the perfect blend of computer information technology and computer engineering.
“I just got so excited. … I told my friend ‘I just cannot wait till I get computer science homework,’” Ekpo said.
Ekpo talked with his hands and smiled as he explained that computer science is about innovation and efficiency, about making things faster, smarter, smaller.
Ekpo said he loves solving a problem, sometimes more than the actual solution. He said the path to the best solution starts with an algorithm creating a solution in the first 10 minutes, then eight minutes and finally five seconds.
Ekpo’s love of problem-solving would transfer over into his eventual decision to come to BYU-Idaho.
“I guess up until that point I’d never thought of leaving Nigeria,” Epko said.
But friends he made and the spiritual environment he enjoyed while serving a mission made him reconsider. Finally, one persistent friend and that friend’s mother convinced Ekpo that he could come to BYU-I, and he did.
As Ekpo’s time at BYU-I draws closer to being over, he knows he wants to be part of computer science and the next big innovation that will move the technology industry forward, but he’s not sure exactly where he will be making his contribution.
“I’m not set about going back home anymore, wherever life takes me … whatever plan Heavenly Father has,” Ekpo said.
His example of researching, reading and practicing computer science skills before he even started studying at college attests to Epko’s passion for the field, along with his desire to share that love with anyone willing to hear about computer science.
“If I could have all BYU-I students in one space and talk about computer science, I would. I’d be like, ‘Guys, you can do computer science, it’s fun.’” Ekpo said.
He thinks everyone should try at least one programming class before they say they can’t do it or couldn’t enjoy it.