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 http://rochack.org

Computer Science at Rochester at https://www.cs.rochester.edu

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.

(http://alum.mit.edu/pages/sliceofmit/2012/05/22/george-eastmans-nose-is-available-for-rubbing/)

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 (thebuzz@rochester.edu) 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 http://www.systemseng.cornell.edu/engineering2/se/intel/

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 JLunger@u.rochester.edu.

Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Kiana Ross

Name: Kiana Ross
Age: 32
Occupation: Mathematician
Education: B.S. in Computer Science, University of Rochester, 2001; M.S. in Mathematics, University of Washington; PhD in Mathematics, University of Washington
Location: Los Angeles, CA


When and how did you choose your major?

I decided to major in computer science after taking my first programming class. I loved the creative problem solving aspect of programming, as well as the satisfaction of building something useful and concrete. Unfortunately I didn’t discover computer science until the end of my sophomore year, so I had to overload my schedule and take summer school to finish on time! But it was well worth it.

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

Having a background in computers has been indispensable, (and very marketable), post-graduation. I regularly use my programming skills and algorithm design and analysis knowledge on the job. The most useful tool I’ve gained from my major, however, is the ability to think clearly about complex and abstract problems.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I work at a space systems research and development center for the US government. My responsibilities vary widely, from orbit design to developing simulation software. I chose this career because I enjoy interdisciplinary, science-based environments; I can make use of both my skills as a mathematician and as a computer scientist, and because space research is just cool.

How are you still connected with the University?

I loved the time I spent at U of R, so staying connected, even from the West Coast, is really important to me. I always swing by the computer science department for a visit when I’m in the Rochester area. From Los Angeles, I conduct alumni interviews for prospective students, contribute to the University’s Meliora Challenge initiative, and attend the occasional alumni social event.

What advice do you have for current students?

College is really such a wonderful, transformative time in your life, so be bold and make the most out of it: Explore something completely foreign to you. Get involved on campus at the risk of over-extending yourself. Be academically adventurous. Cultivate big dreams.

Spotlight on Engineering and Social Sciences Alumni: Brad Orego

Name: Brad Orego
Occupation: User Experience Designer
Education (UR and additional): B.S. in Computer Science, B.A. in Psychology, University of Rochester, 2010; T5 2011
Current city/state of residence: Madison, WI
Community activities: MUFA (ultimate frisbee), Madison Contemporary Vision (dance), organizer of UXMad, Madtown JavaScript, Madison Web Developers, Madison Homebrewers & Tasters Guild, and Capital Entrepreneurs


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 what I 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 having 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.

Computer Science And … Halloween?

By Dan Wang
Univ. Communications

This October, students in a computer science class were given an unlikely task: to construct a spear out of only naturally occurring materials that would be vigorous enough to repel a tiger attack. To test the effectiveness of their spears, they demonstrated on pumpkins, first decorating them and then setting them up to be stabbed.  A successful spear would go through an entire pumpkin, out the other side, and into an arrow target.

For students in CSC 199: Creative Computing, stabbing a pumpkin is actually a natural next step, as the class has many offbeat assignments. Past projects have included estimating the cost of building a mile-high skyscraper in lower Manhattan, figuring out the total distance traveled by a red blood cell throughout its lifetime, and approximating the amount of time it would take for the atmosphere to become unbreathable if the process of photosynthesis ceased.

Senior Alex Silverman wrapped a sharp piece of stone with vines to create a spear point, and mounted it on a large stick. His thrust managed to penetrate the skin of the pumpkin. “This is the first computer science class in which I’ve had to stab a pumpkin with a spear,” he remarked. “It’s harder than it looks.”

What is this assignment trying to teach? “It’s partly about Halloween, and partly about illustrating the importance of cultural infrastructure even at the Paleolithic level,” Professor Randal Nelson explained. “Few people appreciate how hard it is to get by without tools.”

After the failure of most spears to go through the entire pumpkin, a consensus emerged in the class: It’s really difficult to survive in Paleo-era.

In the Photo: Alex Feiszli ’14 tests his homemade spear.