Campus dining ever better with URdining app

A new iOS application hopes to improve campus dining experiences for undergraduates.  Xuefeng Peng ’17 and Jacob Niebloom ’18 have created an app called URdining that will serve as a database for all information relating to food on campus.  The app, which is now available in the Apple App Store, includes day-to-day menus, nutritional information, and hours of operation for each dining hall, making information typically found on CampusDish easily accessible to the student body.

Peng, a sophomore majoring in computer science and applied mathematics, laid down much of the coding groundwork for the app.  Peng transferred to the University of Rochester from Stony Brook University last fall.  The idea for this app came out of his difficulties in navigating through SBU’s eight different dining facilities.  Without a localized source of information regarding menus on a daily basis, he often found himself wandering in and out of dining halls with a stomach full of only disappointment.

Though he began work on the code before he came to the River Campus, Peng is excited to be bring dining solutions to his new college home.  “I really want to use what I have learned to bring convenience and diversity to the University community,” he said.

While the prototype only took four months to complete, Peng admitted that he owes the successful launch of the application to all of the collaborative work that went into its production.  Niebloom, also a computer science major, assisted with the code’s progress as well as logistics regarding technological security.  Guidance from Natalie Antal from the Center for Entrepreneurship and Kevin Aubrey from Dining Services was also integral to the application’s development.

The undergraduates also successfully applied to FbStart, a program designed to help early stage mobile startups build and grow their apps.  The team received $20,000 in free tools and services from the Facebook-based program, which is one of the nation’s leading and most competitive incubators, boasting a 3% acceptance rate.

Looking forward, Peng is excited to see the student body benefit from the new accessibility of information offered by this app and hopes to make campus dining ever better for coming generations of Rochester students.

The app offers menus and nutrition information for all major dining halls on River Campus, a user rating system and comment system, and the ability to send push notifications regarding special events and other dining announcements. Users can sign into the app via email address, Facebook login, or Google+ login.  The app, found here, is available for download for all iOS mobile users.

Photo by Chengyu Deng ‘ 17

Building fun with UR Makers

By Bob Marcotte
University Communications

Chris Smith has been taking things apart and putting them back together again since he was eight years old.

“For Christmas I got an air compressor. Most kids get an Xbox,” he joked. “It’s always been hands on for me.” Now the freshman in Mechanical Engineering is sharing his skills with fellow UR students as a member of – and mentor for — a new club on campus.

The goal of UR Makers is to bring together engineering, arts, and sciences students who like to design and build things – and want to learn how to use a variety of tools as they do so. Not for a class. Not for credit. Just for the fun of it.

Their playground: The fabrication lab in Rettner Hall, with its state-of-the-art 3D printers, brand new Smithy 3 in 1 drill/mill/lathe machines, and plenty of space to spread out in, accessible 24/7.

“We think there’s a real opportunity here to fill a niche that’s not currently filled,” said club leader Sarah Harari, a junior in Computer Science and Digital Media Studies. “There’s no other space on campus where students of different majors can really work together to build whatever comes to mind.”

The club, still in its first year, has already sponsored:

  • a “retro tear down” event, during which members took apart an aging computer monitor and other obsolete equipment donated by the University.
  • a mouse trap car race night
  • tech talks on a variety of topics.
  • Lego Robotics Night
  • an Arduino Workshop
  • 3D Modeling and Printing Workshops

Currently, club members are finishing up a cabinet with shelves and a plexiglass sign with the club’s name, illuminated with LED lighting. They will be displayed in the space UR Makers has been assigned in a corner of the lab. It is part of the club’s effort “to get our name out there,” Harari explained.

“We want to have multiple projects going on, that students can work on during the week (the club currently meets 4-6 p.m. each Sunday),” Harari added. “We want them to feel this is a space where they can come in and bounce ideas off other students and meet with people who have different skill sets.”During a recent Sunday meeting, everyone got a chance to use various tools.


For example, Lia Klein, a sophomore in Computer Science, wielded a dremel tool to etch the outline of the club’s name in the plexiglass sign. She had never used a dremel before she joined the club and received a 45-minute introduction to basic tools and safety with Jim Alkins, Rettner Hall’s Senior Laboratory Engineer who formerly headed a machine shop, as part of Research and Development at Kodak.

“I didn’t really even know we had something at the school where you could use all the power tools for free and come in whenever you wanted,” Klein said. “And I feel like they’re really treating us like adults, which I appreciate.”

She hopes that, after working on a few projects with UR Makers, “I might gain the confidence and ability to do some projects on my own, and build stuff for my dorm room.”

In a nearby room, Steven Broida joyfully exchanged high fives with Caulin Nelson as the freshmen in Mechanical Engineering successfully cut notches in the cabinet, then fit shelves into them. This was Broida’s first experience using a power saw. “I’m learning as I use it,” he said proudly.

UR Makers is open to students of all majors and interests, regardless of experience. Click here to learn more or e-mail

What Clubs Are You In? Campus Clubs Galore

With over 250 different student organizations to choose from, it’s no wonder that UR undergrads are always so busy!  The many opportunities offered by the various clubs and sports provide the campus population an outlet to share their interests and channel their passions. Listed below are some examples of the diverse and involved undergrads that embody the quintessentially Rochester student body.


Name: Alyssa Wolf
Major: Epidemiology
Class Year: 2015
“I’m in Blue Crew. Blue Crew is a school sports spirit organization. We go to sporting events, and we cheer a lot and scream.  We go to games for basketball, football, soccer, field hockey, and cross country.

Name: Nicholas Scacchetti
Major: Chemical Engineering
Class Year: 2015
“I’m with the American Institute of Chemical Engineering here on campus. Right now, I’m heading up the ChemE car competition, where we build a small car to run in a competition that runs off a chemical reaction. We’re going to be building a hydrogen fuel cell car. We have all the parts and we’re putting it together right now.”

Name: Will Burns
Major: Business
Class Year: 2015
“I Rock Climb. I got into it when I was younger, and I wanted to continue it into college.”

Colleges against Cancer

Name: Julia Weisman
Major: Psychology and Business
Class Year: 2018
“The CAC (Colleges against Cancer) does a lot of advertising about certain types of cancer. Each month is focused on a different disease. We are focusing on lung and pediatric cancer; it was breast cancer month in October. We have lots of different events going on. We have had dinners in Douglass, and we do fun things on campus. We just like to promote awareness of the disease.”


Name: Dan Hoffman
Major: Music
Class Year: 2015
“I’m not in a club because I spend so much time dancing. That in itself is almost like an extracurricular thing, and I’m always choreographing and working with dancers in other classes. I just don’t have time for clubs.”

Name: Horacio Quezada
Major: Undeclared
Class Year: 2018
“I’m in a couple of them. One is called Salsita, which is part of a major organization called SALSA. It’s a leadership club, we learn about leadership positions. I’m also in Newman, which is the Catholic community here on campus. In Salsita, I’m the business manager.”


Name: Orkhan Abdullayev
Major: Chemical Engineering
Class Year: 2016 (Grad Student)
Club: BPG is the Ballet Performance Group, it is a club that is dedicated to preserving classical technique on campus, as well as allowing students to choreograph their own pieces in a variety of styles such as contemporary, jazz, hip-hop, and tap.

Name: Carola Figueroa
Major: Biology
Class Year: 2016
Club: Yes, I’m in Alpha Phi Omega, it’s a community service fraternity. I’m also in the Society of Undergraduate Biology Students. I joined APO because I love service.

Name: Evan Mclaughlin
Major: Computer Science
Class Year: 2016
“I’m in Chi Phi fraternity. I was the secretary last year which was fun. I did all the paper pushing in the background.”

Track & Field

Name: Bobbi Spiegel
Major: Health, Behavior, and Society
Class Year: 2017
“I’m on the varsity track team, and I’m on grass roots. I’m also involved in Jewish life, like Chabad and Hillel. For track, we have practice six days a week, because the NCAA mandates that we have one day off. Once we hit January 1st, we have a meet every weekend until the end of school. We actually stay past the end of school, because our meets go into late May/ early June. It’s a big dedication, since we also have weight room time. My main event is long jump. I also sprint and do triple jump.”

Name: Alex Samuelson
Major: Neuroscience and Political Science
Class Year: 2017
“I’m in Delta Gamma, one of the sororities here on campus.  What we’re doing right now is supporting our philanthropy, which is Service for Sight, which supports blinded veterans who have been wounded, and also their families. We’re selling bracelets for the blinded veterans’ association, and later, we’re going to have an event, this coming Saturday, where we wrap gifts for the families of soldiers who are currently deployed.

mariachiName: Marcia Des Jardin
Major: Molecular Genetics
Class Year: 2015, 2016T5
“UR Mariachi is really cool group of people. I don’t speak Spanish at all, but I sing in Spanish. It’s a lot of fun to get out of your comfort zone, and get to know people you wouldn’t necessarily know before. You can play violin, guitar, bass, trumpet, flute, accordion – whatever you want, just come to our rehearsals on Wednesday at 4:30.”

Name: Molly Goldstein
Major: Music, BCS
Class Year: 2017
“This past weekend, the Frisbee team actually went to Montreal, and we had a tournament there. We did pretty well. We won a few games and had a lot of fun. It was a very rewarding experience with the team. It’s a nice balance between being very serious about our playing, but also having a good time on the field as well.”

Name: Hadley Brown
Major: English Language/Media Communications, Psychology
Class Year: 2015
“For U of R’s Alpha Phi organization, I’m actually the parental and alumni affairs coordinator, so I work a lot with outreach to the outside community, trying to bring them back to the school, get some school spirit, and to introduce the girls to some people they can network with after college.”

Name: Milagros Garcia
Major: Psychology, English language/Media Communications
Class Year: 2017
SALSA, the Spanish & Latino Students Association, is basically a community, you don’t have to be Hispanic of any type to join, basically, we just discuss issues that affect the Latin-American community as well as try to make ourselves known that we’re a part of campus.


Name: Liza Gerwig
Major: BCS
Class Year: 2016
Sihir is the belly dancing group, and it’s really fun.  There’s a lot of cool, wacky people, and we do cool, fancy things, and put on nice shows.”

Name: Shelby Corning
Major: Environmental Science
Class Year: 2017
“I’m on the varsity Softball team. We went to nationals last spring for the first time in school history, which was really cool. It was a big step for the program. I’m a left fielder.”

Name: Rachel Milner
Major: Biology
Class Year: 2015
“The Strong Jugglers were formed in 1995, and we started off as a bunch of kids who went over to Strong Memorial Hospital to juggle for the patients. It’s evolved into a fine circus and performing arts organization. We like to perform on and off-campus. It’s very casual: anyone can join!”

Name: Duncan Graham
Major: Economics
Class Year: 2015
Mock Trial is a club that does what the name implies, we put on trials. There are attorneys, there are witnesses, and we compete with schools across the east coast and the south. We’re even thinking of going to California. We compete, we have attorneys, witnesses, and it’s a whole lot of fun.”

ArcheryName: Allison Colarusso
Major: Chemical Engineering
Class Year: 2016
Archery right now: we shoot arrows… at targets.”

Name: Paul Gabrys
Major: Chemical Engineering
Class Year: 2014, 2015T5
Newman Community is where people who identify as Catholic want come together to grow as a community.”


Archive project links history and computer science

Senior Luke Kortepeter came to college on the pre-med track, but a class project in the library’s archives turned him into a computer science and history double major.

He’s been working on the Seward Family Papers digital history project for two years. Students involved in the project take Professor Thomas Slaughter’s history class on the family of William H. Seward, and also transcribe and digitize letters from a collection in the Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation department of  Rush Rhees Library.

“This spring we focused on the family correspondence,” says Kortepeter. “It’s a whole new primary resource that hasn’t been utilized yet.

He says the 15 students in the class spent the spring on letters from 1862. Once digitized and online, the papers will be more accessible, he says.

After four semesters working on the project, Kortepeter knows a lot about the Sewards. “I must have read 500-1,000 letters so far, and it’s awesome,” he says.

“We have thousands of letters covering a sixty year period. We are going through every single one,” he says. “And that’s really cool for me, actually, knowing that you’re the very first person reading the letter since it was first read.”

Bad handwriting

kortepeter_280 The project is expected to go “live” in the spring of 2015. Kortepeter and his classmates are racing to get as many letters transcribed, annotated, and digitized as they can before the project’s debut.

That said, the process requires keen eyes and a good understanding of the Seward family’s historical context.

In addition to serving as Secretary of State under President Abraham Lincoln for two terms, William Henry Seward was the Governor of New York and a US senator. He also negotiated the purchase of Alaska from the Russians for two cents per acre—a purchase many considered foolish at the time.

Just reading the letters can be a challenge. “Since the handwritings on the letters are pretty awful for the most part, we are transcribing them—once you get used to it, it’s not as bad,” Kortepeter says.

“And, we are also annotating them. The user will be able to read the transcription right next to the digital image, and if they see a name they are interested in, they can click and it will say who that person was.

Teen diary

“Having been with the project for a while I’ve read basically everyone’s handwriting. It’s definitely interesting to see how different they are.

“Fanny Seward’s is very curly—beautiful handwriting—and she loved writing about her daily life,” Kortepeter says. “She’s a teenager at this time, and so you can see how she’s growing up and how the world is changing so much around her.

“She’d have fine descriptions of gentlemen, and will talk about things as basic as their jawline and how it curves perfectly. And so it’s very interesting to read—I mean, it’s her diary. She wasn’t expecting anyone to be reading it,” says Kortepeter.

Finding personalities

“Then on the opposite end of the spectrum, we have William Henry’s wife, Frances, whose handwriting is awful.

“It’s up for debate how ‘into’ the whole political thing she was in terms of supporting him,” says Kortepeter. “Some historians say that she wasn’t very supportive and it was a pain for her to have go to these conventions
with him. But,” he says, “we are finding that might not be true.

“She would go to Washington, DC, and say how awful it was and how she had migraines the whole time. And how at social events she would go, but then sit in a room by herself.

It’s “really cool” to pick up on people’s personalities in the letters, according to Kortepeter. “A lot of these resources weren’t available, so when [researchers] only had a snippet of letters and she’s angry in every single one of them, then you’d say ‘yeah, of course, she’s angry and hates her husband’s career,’” he explains.

“But when you see these other letters and she’s so passionate about slavery—she hated slavery—or just her opinions about political scandals at the time, it just really shows she was interested, and she definitely had opinions about what was going on.

“The DC social life wasn’t for her. She found it incredibly stressful. Especially since her husband was so incredibly social—it was hard to live up to that,” Kortepeter says.

‘I have no desire to be a doctor’

Kortepeter, who started out doing pre-med, says the Seward letter project “has definitely changed my college path completely.

“I had been doing premed stuff all through high school—I worked in labs, both my parents are doctors, and I figured, ‘yeah, sure, I could be a doctor, too.’ And that winter break of my freshman year, I followed a surgeon around for a little bit, and I was just… ‘I hate this—I have no desire to be a doctor.’

“Then I floundered around a little bit, trying econ. I took a history class with Professor Jarvis, and my freshman writing teacher worked with Slaughter and said, ‘Why don’t you talk to him, he’s my favorite professor—and just take a class with him’? And I was like, ‘okay, sure.’”

Kortepeter says his parents had different reactions to his change in plans.

“My father was excited for me to explore my own thing. My mother was confused because I was always so sciencey—all throughout high school,” he says. “All my AP classes were in science.

“It was very new to me to go into a history class. I came here because I know it’s a strong science school,” Kortepeter says, “and then ended up studying something totally different.”

He says his two majors complement each other. “Usually with computer science I’ll do my projects, but I don’t really get to apply it. Like, I can only make Tetris so many times,” he says with a laugh.

“With this, I really get to be on both sides of the project: I get to do the history things and work with the letters, but then as a computer science student, I am also working on the website and the database—helping with everything, really,” he explains.

“It was the perfect project for me.”

Hack to the Future: Rochester’s First 24-hour Hackathon

It’s a race against the clock as the hackathon participants complete as much coding and rapid prototyping as possible in 24 hours. (Photo by Jack Valinsky ’15)

By Sofia Tokar
University Communications

Computer programming is often a solitary endeavor. But humans are inherently social creatures.

So how do you engage a group of programmers in a way that’s fun and productive?

Answer: a hackathon.

Like book clubs for readers, hackathons regularly bring together computer programmers, coders, and developers with a shared love for building better software (and occasionally hardware) tools for themselves and others. Hackathons can last anywhere from a few hours to several days, and they often have an educational, social, or philanthropic bent.

In the last couple of years, Rochester’s computer science students have led the hacking movement at the University.

A brief history of the hack pack

Although the term “hacker” has negative connotations, groups like RocHack reclaim the term to mean builders and creators.

two students with laptops helping each other out

Bring your own laptop. The hackathon was held in Rettner Hall, with the first floor reserved for the hackers. (Photo by Jack Valinsky ’15)

Founded in September 2012, RocHack bills itself as “a group of hackers, engineers, builders, and friendly people who attend the University of Rochester.” Several Rochester students formed RocHack as a subset of the Computer Science Undergraduate Council (CSUG), a campus student organization.

In December 2013, the group hosted its first hackathon, an eight-hour event with the theme “Make UR Better.” The results included projects such as UR Bus Schedules (an easy way to access the campus bus schedules), Skedge (an alternative course scheduling system for the University), and Cluster Navigator (a visual tool to explore the Rochester curriculum as a graph of courses and clusters).

With the success of December’s event, the group decided it was time to hack things up a notch.

Spring into hacking action

On April 12 and 13, Rettner Hall hosted its first-ever daylong hacking gathering: the Spring 2014 RocHack Hackathon.

Computer science majors and CSUG members Steve Gattuso ’16 and Dan Hassin ’16 organized the event featuring half a dozen corporate sponsors (including Google) and more than 60 participants.

The goal? Come to the hackathon with an idea, work on it for 24 hours, complete as much coding and rapid prototyping as possible, then present the work—and potentially win prizes. Sleep is optional.

“You can bond with other people who love to build things,” says Gattuso. “It’s also a great way to learn how to code. We have a lot of experienced people who are happy to teach others.”

group of student laughing and taking around a table filled with laptops and other computer equipment

Steve Gattuso ’16 (center, plaid shirt) checks in with some of the hackers on day one. (Photo by Jack Valinsky ’15)

Participants brought their own laptops, but Gattuso and Hassin supplied plenty of workspace and food for the coders. “We wanted to encourage electrical engineers to attend, so we provided materials for hardware hacking as well,” explains Gattuso.

At 2 p.m. on Saturday, the hacking commenced.

Show and tell

After 24 hours of brainstorming, prototyping, coding, and testing, the participants presented their work.

The projects ranged from the practical to the elaborate. These included an application that generates customizable complaint emails based on how angry you are; a Reddit notification app for Chrome; a life-size interactive musical and visual tone matrix; a homemade operating system; and a distributed IRC system.

Demonstrating impressive technical know-how, these latter two projects tied for first place.

Next steps for RocHack

Gattuso and Hassin plan to hold another RocHack Hackathon next spring, and are considering making the event a semi-annual one.

“Most of the hackers this year were Rochester students,” says Hassin. “But with some more advertising and promotion, we hope to increase participation from area colleges and universities. We also want to encourage more people who are new to computer science to attend.”

As Gattuso and Hassin say, all you need is the desire to build.

student sleeping face down on the lawn

Hard day’s night: Sleep is optional at a hackathon. (Photo by Jack Valinsky ’15)

Learn more about

RocHack at

Computer Science at Rochester at

Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Brad Orego

APCSBradOregoName: Brad Orego

Occupation: User Experience Designer

Education (UR and additional): BS (Computer Science), BA (Psychology), University of Rochester, 2010; T5 2011

Current city/state of residence: Madison, WI

Community activitiesMUFA (ultimate frisbee), Kanopy Dance Company, MCVD (dance), Madison Curling Club, UXMad, 3-Day Startup, Startup Weekend, 100state

Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

When I was a senior in high school considering my options for college, I had decided on two areas of study that I was interested in majoring in: Computer Science and Psychology. Due to that, the schools I looked at were split into two groups: tech schools for CS and liberal arts schools for Psych. When I came to the University of Rochester, I had a meeting with the chair of the CS department, who asked me what I wanted to major in. When I explained my situation, he simply said “why don’t you come here and do both?” Aside from being in love with the culture and atmosphere of the U of R, this sealed the deal.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I was in several dance groups, a CSUG e-board member, involved in ResLife, and a few other clubs here and there, as well as a TA/Workshop Leader. Aside from a way to get out, try new things, and meet new people, getting involved in the leadership of those clubs had an incredible impact on my growth and experience at the U of R. I still use examples from various e-board positions when interviewing for positions, and it really brought my learning out of theory in the classroom to practice in the real world. Working with students across majors/interests is an incredibly valuable lesson in teamwork.

What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?

Definitely do whatever you can to get involved in something that isn’t just academics. I fully believe that the college experience is about more than just what’s taught in the classroom. Check out the Activities Fair and the various clubs and activities available on campus – they can have a huge impact on your time at the University. Also, don’t be afraid of the Career Center: they’re there to help. They’re an incredible resource, and can really improve your job/internship search process.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

I decided to go straight to work as a Software Developer when I graduated because I was a little tired of academia after so many years, and I also wanted to get some good real-world experience in software development/the software industry. After discovering that pure software development wasn’t exactly what I wanted, I decided to leave my first job for a position as a UI Designer, which is more in line with what I focused on in college and am truly interested in/passionate about.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

One of the greatest things you learn while at the U of R, whether you recognized it or not, is the ability to adapt (especially when it comes to Computer Science). We’re taught many things while in college, but not many of those things directly apply to the real world. What learning all of those things teaches us, though, is the ability to learn and to adapt yourself to a variety of tasks, and to constantly be learning and reinventing yourself. This plasticity is one of the most valuable assets in the job market today.

How are you still connected with the University?

I keep in touch with a lot of my underclassman friends that are still at the University, as well as a handful of my now-fellow-alumni friends. I usually make a trip back every semester to catch up with folks and to see the BPG show every semester, as I was heavily involved with that group in my time. I read all of the newsletters and publications that come from the U of R, and occasionally drop by the homepage/other group pages just to keep tabs on things. 

What advice do you have for current students?

Get involved with something. Your education is more than what you learn in class, and getting yourself involved in something you’re really passionate about will keep you connected to the University far beyond your years there. It’s a way of leaving your mark on the University, and to have something to point to and say “I did that”. The experiences you’ll gain from those challenges will be indispensable in the scope of your entire education, and you’ll enjoy school a lot more than if you just go to class and study.

Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Kyle Murray

meName: Kyle Murray

Degree: B.S. Computer Science ’12 (Pursuing Ph.D. in computer science at MIT)

Occupation: Graduate student

Residence: Cambridge, MA

Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?
Once it was on my shortlist, the particular fact that sealed the deal was that Professor Michael L. Scott’s research on concurrent linked queues made it into the Java standard library, used by millions of programmers. Rochester made the list originally because of its relatively small size and strong research focus.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?
After taking a cruise to Alaska with my family, I enjoyed a summer internship in Adobe’s programming language research group. But the next true chapter of my life started in the fall, when I started as a Ph.D. student in User Interface Design research group at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

My time and opportunities I had at the University of Rochester played a big role in my choice to follow that path. In particular, I met a future colleague of mine, Greg Little, while he was an intern at Xerox in Rochester. He would spent one day a week at our lab in the Department of Computer Science, and he had such unique research ideas that I decided to further my education in his old research group after graduating from the U of R.

How do you balance your work and personal life?
I’ve found that expressing genuine interest in something often leads to obligations in that area, so I try to find interesting aspects of both work and personal life, and then get involved by sharing that interest with other people. So, my personal strategy is to try to balance and estimate the obligations that I have in both my work and personal life so that I get a good amount of both. Often, this means that I know exactly when I should leave my lab, because there’s an event coming up that I’m helping out with around dinner time.

How are you still connected with the University?
Since graduating, I’ve realized how interconnected the wider research community really is. It turns out that people with connections to the university are everywhere, so I’ve met plenty of fellow students (and a professor) here who previously studied at the U of R. There’s even a plaque with the bust of George Eastman outside of a classroom here, and students rub his nose for good luck before exams.


When and how did you choose your major?
I’m one of those people who had a major in mind even before college. I didn’t change my mind, but I did learn what I wanted todo with my major in my sophomore year when I met my research advisor, Prof. Jeff Bigham. He showed me that the way that I liked to program was really useful in the context of building research systems for human-computer interaction.

Where would you like to be in five years?
I’d like to be coming up on finishing my doctoral thesis. I’d like to have chosen between becoming an academic or industrial researcher, and hopefully I would have already started applying for jobs in those areas. You might think I’d already want to be done in five years, but I’m having a blast so far, so I’m not tackling this at a rush.

What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?
The campus and wider Rochester community is full of opportunities to be funded for doing research, if you look for them. In particular, I was supported by the Kearns Center and Xerox for overlapping periods that encompassed all four years of my study. For students looking for a late night snack, the URMC has surprising tasty options.

Summer Plans Series: Ansley ’14 Grows by Leaps and Bounds

By Rei Ramos ’15
University Communications

Working as a summer intern is not always all fun and games. However, according to Emily Ansley ’14, employment at LeapFrog Enterprises comes with quite a few perks. A developer and manufacturer of technology-based learning products for children, the company incorporates innovations in software to create educational toys for young children, which are, as the rising senior has found, surprisingly entertaining. “I’ve gotten to play with many of the toys–some of which aren’t even on shelves yet.” Working at the company’s main office in sunny California, Ansley likewise gets to enjoy a warm, West Coast summer.

Serving as a software engineering intern working with a team of mainly post-baccalaureate interns to create and update software tools to be utilized by the company’s professional developers. One of her first projects involved revamping an outdated audio mechanism. “The current tool was made when LeapFrog had only one or two different platforms. LeapFrog has grown tremendously since, and we need a new, easier tool that accommodates all the current platforms and has the ability to be extended for future ones.” As such, her code-writing efforts impact both the company and the development of its educational products.

Majoring in computer science, Ansley is already familiar with electronic coding and software. Through LeapFrog, however, she is able to see firsthand how they are used by a large scale corporation. With this, she is acquiring valuable skills that will remain beneficial even after her graduation in the coming spring semester. “For me, this internship is my first step into the corporate world. I’m learning many of the techniques they use to meet deadlines and get projects finished on time.” Through weekly collaborative meetings with different departments and the mentorship of company employees, Ansley is gaining valuable experience that simply can’t be taught in a classroom.

After graduation, Ansley hopes to partake in an English teaching assistantship. She aspires to work closely with young children in the near future. “I’m applying for a program in Taiwan where I’d help teach English to elementary kids for a year. After that, I’m not sure yet,” she admits. But even with her future seeming a bit uncertain, Ansley is sure that her current internship will truly help her to develop professionally and grow by leaps and bounds. “Although LeapFrog is a very unique company, I’m finding that I will be able to carry over many of the skills I acquire here to every other job.”


This story is part of the Summer Plans Series, a collection of stories about how undergrads at the University of Rochester are spending their summer. Know of someone doing something cool over break? Email The Buzz ( and tell us all about it!


Rochester Students Compete in Engineering Competition

By Leonor Sierra
Press Officer for Engineering and Science, Univ. Communications

Two groups of Rochester students were among the 30 design teams from 18 institutions that showed off creations at the Intel Cornell Cup on May 3-4, 2013 at Walt Disney World.

One of the groups won an honorable mention for their work on the URead Braille project. Their concept was a refreshable braille display that acts as a computer screen for the blind. The braille display would be able to read in text and .pdf files and output the result on the screen through a tactile display.

The UV Swarm team modified some robots, similar to a Roomba hoover robot, incorporating a UV light that could sanitize large surfaces quicker than is currently possible.  These could be used in medical or sport facilities. They also programmed a central hub that would automatically oversee the operation so that these ‘bots’ are all synchronized with each other, ensuring the full floor is covered and limiting overlaps.

The teams worked for months on their projects, with the support of their advisers Randal Nelson, Ted Pawlicki and Chris Brown all from the Computer Science department. The teams were comprised of students from different majors, including computer science, electrical and computing engineering, and biomedical engineering, and from different years, from freshmen to seniors.

The goal of the Cornell Cup is to challenge engineering college student design teams to create embedded technology devices that address real-world needs and that might just catch an investor’s eye.

Senior Design Day Video Features UV Swarm:

The members of the teams were: Doug Miller (CSC ’15), Christina Kayastha (CSC/ECE ’14), Nate Book (CSC ’14), Ben Ouattara (CSC/ECE ’16), Samantha Piccone (CSC ’14), Erick Frank (CSC ’13), Morgan Sinko (ME ’16), Alex Kurland (CSC ’13/T5), Ben Vespone (BME ’14) and Andy Hevey (ECE ’14).

For more info about the Cornell Cup, visit

In the Photo: University of Rochester student design teams, UV Swarm and URead Braille, pose for a group portrait. From left to right: Doug Miller, Christina Kayastha, Nate Book, Ben Ouattara, Samantha Piccone, Eric Frank, Morgan Sinko, Ted Pawlicki, Alex Kurland, Ben Vespone, Randal Nelson, and Andy Hevey.

Computer Science Undergrads Embark on Weekend of “Extreme Programming”

By Blake Silberberg ’13
Univ. Communications

Over the weekend of March 15th, “Hacklemore”, a team of 10 undergraduate Computer Science students from the University of Rochester traveled to Université Laval in Quebec City, Canada to participate in the CS Games. The team, led by captains Julian Lunger ’14 and Emily Danchik ’13, took 7th place out of 22 teams, thanks to strong showings by the team of Charlie Lehner ’15 and  David Bang ’14 who took 2nd place in Web Development,  and the team of Dan Hassin ’16 and Joe Brunner  ’14 who took 3rd place in Extreme Programming.

CSUG-3The CS Games, an annual competition held by Canadian universities, is attended by over 300 students. Although most of the student participants are Canadian, both the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology have sent teams in recent years. In 2011, the University of Rochester team won the competition. This year, the University of Rochester was the only American university to send a team to the event.

Teams consist of a maximum of 10 people, and compete in 15 to 20 different competitions from Friday to Sunday. These competitions are in different programming areas which range from programming theory, which deals with designing algorithms,  to embedded programming, which deals with writing programs which run on small devices. In addition to the programming competitions, there also are competitions in a few unrelated areas, such as sporting competitions and even a campus-wide scavenger hunt.

Throughout the games, teams must also be on the lookout for “Puzzle Hero” challenges, which are timed “mini-games” that cover a variety of topics and are emailed to the teams at random times. During this year’s games, Team “Hacklemore” had to do everything from solving chess puzzles to identifying pictures and diagrams of obscure plugs and wires. “One challenge even had us listen to a highly modified soundfile and figure out what it meant. The file sounded like a short, high-pitched blip–but we eventually figured out that it was three consecutive Iron Maiden song outtakes,” says Captain Julian Lunger. The team also had the opportunity to participate in “Hacking Questions,” where team members were given a limited amount of time to access websites designed for the competition.

CSUG-2In addition to the challenges, the event also featured large social gatherings for all of the participants.”The social aspect is an important and sometimes surprising one at the Games. Some people typically think of CS majors as unsocial; however, the exact opposite is true at the CS Games,” says Captain Julian Lunger. “The teams of computer geeks there are fun, they are wild, and they stay up til 2, 3, 4 a.m. every night.” The Rochester team also had the opportunity to interact with Computer Science students from different backgrounds. “Meeting French-Canadian students was really cool because they have a different culture and think about things in a different way– it’s almost like they are Europeans in North America,” says Lunger.

This years roster included Emily Danchik (leader) ’13, Julian Lunger (leader, captain) ’14, Thomas Swift ’13, Emily Ansley ’14, Joe Brunner ’14, Nate Book ’14, Shuopeng Deng ’14, Dan Hassin ’16, Charlie Lehner ’15, and David Bang ’14.

The Rochester team already has next year’s competition in mind. Captain Julian Lunger encourages any interested students to contact him through email at