Holt Herndon is a senior computer science major from Abilene, Texas. This past summer, Holt had an internship with USAA and will be working for them after graduation. We asked Holt a few questions about his time at ACU.
Q: How has your education and experiences at ACU, especially in your department, prepared you for the future?
A: The experience that prepared me the most was probably my internship. This summer, I interned at USAA in Plano. During my internship, I did Java programming for a test suite. Along with that, I worked along with some of the senior developers on the team to assist in looking into some of the future software that would be used at USAA. I really enjoyed dealing with enterprise-grade software and systems. It was an incredible learning experience for me, and I highly recommend it. My internship also helped me receive an offer for a full-time job which I’ll be starting in January, which definitely helps with preparing a future.
Q: What was your favorite class in your department?
A: That’s a tough question. It would be between Operating Systems (CS 356) and Computer Organization (CS 220). I enjoyed both of them for very similar reasons. Both classes got deep into how a computer works in its more primal form. Learning about computers at such a concentrated level helped me understand and learn how to write programs that are much more efficient.
Q: Who was your favorite professor and why?
A: James Prather was my favorite professor. He does a great job of explaining things in simple terms, his assignments were very hands-on which helped me learn, and I enjoy being around him.
Q: If you could talk to a prospective student considering coming to ACU, why would you tell them to choose ACU?
A: I would tell them to come to ACU for the education they will receive. I really enjoyed my computer science professors. In all my classes, I learned something new and useful that furthered my career in programming. All my professors knew me by name and were always willing to help me achieve my goals, which isn’t something that is guaranteed at other schools.
This summer, Rich Tanner, Clinical Professor of Digital Entertainment Technology, attended the Christian Game Developers Conference held yearly in Portland Oregon. Six students from the School of IT and Computing attended with him. The mission of the conference is “bringing salt and light to one of the most influential industries of the 21st century”. Tanner spent a little time to tell us more about his experience as an attendee and professor hoping to encourage his students to share their faith through this platform.
What is the Christian Game Developers Conference about?
The Christian Game Developers Conference has been going for 17 years, and seems to be growing every year. It is a conference for Christians in the games industry, whether they are building overtly Christ-centered games or not. Many participants are utilizing video games, computer games, and even board games and card games to advance the Kingdom. These games have different purposes. Some are to strengthen the Body of Christ, being designed for a Christian audience with a common understanding and background. Others are designed to reach an audience that does not yet know Christ and to pull them into a conversation about Jesus and Christianity. Still, other Christian games are simply designed as wholesome entertainment for Christian families that do not violate Christian beliefs and morals with the questionable content often found in the industry. In addition to these endeavors, the conference also serves as a gathering for folks in the larger games industry who also happen to be Christians. The conference often hosts discussion groups and presentations on what it means to be a follower of Christ in an interactive and multimedia career field. The conference is a place not only for presentations and sharing of ideas and announcements, but for fellowship and fun. Many projects and collaborations are often formed at the conference by various CGDC attendees. I personally have never been to any other conference that looks as much like the Body of Christ in action.
What were you hoping students would get from attending the conference?
I was hoping for students to network and get engaged! The collaboration that happens at CGDC is truly something special, and it is my desire to get students plugged into projects and companies that they can be meaningful contributors to. The DET program has already had a couple of students get connected to both jobs and internships based on connections that were made and strengthened at CGDC. It was also my hope to have students walk away from the conference and the conversations that happened there with a stronger sense of their purpose in the Kingdom and in the world at large. I wanted them to be asking themselves what it means to be a Christian who is learning and aspiring to be a game and content creator.
Why should students become involved with this? How do they become involved?
Students can get involved simply by getting involved with the DET program, the DET Club that meets every week, and by being involved with other students who share their passions and ambitions. Also, connecting with faculty really helps us to help you. There are many great opportunities that come our way, and we want to see you succeed both in the classroom and beyond!
Mike Wheeler, senior Digital Entertainment Technology major from Plano, Texas attended the conference. He said that his biggest takeaway from the conference was learning how important stage presence is, including appearance, a working presentation, and properly selling your idea or product to the audience. Kolton Burkhalter, senior Digital Entertainment Technology major from Abilene, Texas said that the idea he took away from the conference was that it’s possible to keep one’s Christian values in your work. He said that the conference also influenced him to want to start a business alongside his good friends who share the same interests. Seeing many of the developers at the conference who were self-employed or worked in a small studio has given him the confidence to be a gaming entrepreneur.
Burkhalter said the thing he enjoyed most about the conference was “the selflessness shown by everyone there that sets them apart from an ordinary game developer conference. It was less about professionalism and more about community – everyone was willing to help one another amidst working in different companies. The conference was very welcoming and seemed like a family.”
Are you a DET student who’s interested in attending this conference in the future? To learn more about the Christian Game Developers Conference, click here. To learn more about ACU’s DET Club, click here.
This summer Nevan Simone, senior Computer Science major from Denton, TX, had the opportunity to intern with NASA at Langley Research Center in Virginia. His job at NASA was standard software engineering and he was assigned to create various databases for the information the team was collecting as well as build a UI for easier access to that data. Nevan’s average day included getting to work between 8 and 9 a.m., coding, documenting, and testing until noon, a lunch break and continuing the morning’s work until 5 p.m.. In addition to the various daily tasks assigned to him, he also had a mentor who he met with daily to help guide him and answer any questions he had.
Nevan says that he has always admired the vision and work of NASA, particularly in the astronaut program, and he was very excited to be a part of any portion of NASA’s work. In addition, this internship appealed to him because he wanted to branch out beyond the typical companies students work for that hire software engineers. He also was interested in finding more alluring projects. Nevan applied to NASA’s one-stop-shop-initiative (OSSI) for internships which is the primary resource for researching and applying for a NASA internship. Due to the number of internships available and the great diversity in the kinds of work done at NASA, Nevan was able to find something that not only fit his skill set but was also appealing.
Nevan said the most useful thing he learned in the classroom that was applicable during the beginning of the internship was all the practical elements of his software engineering class taught by Dr. Brent Reeves. The latter part of the internship required him to use material from Human Computer Interaction taught by Dr. James Prather. When work was slow, he found the most productive work option was to review Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krugs, which is a book required for the HCI class.
Nevan stated that the internship did have an impact on his perspective of business and technology; his biggest take-away from the summer was that everything operates on a budget. He found it interesting that the available resources and the scope of the project depended on how much money leaders determine the project is worth. Nevan’s best experience during his time there was being involved with Langley during its year-long 100th anniversary celebration. He was even able to attend the official birthday celebration where there was a field created to showcase the work that NASA has accomplished over the past century. Overall, his favorite part of the summer was realizing he was truly excited to continue work for NASA once he finishes his education. Nevan said that the drive provided by the nature of the projects energized him more than the thought of buillding his resume or making a living.