We were fortunate to have a visit from Michael Edmonds, Head of Education for Amazon Game Services. Michael spoke to our students during a Tech Talk event and visited several of our DET classes. See the video that the Optimist did about his visit below.
SITC hosted our first Women in Technology Conference this past weekend. The event provided an opportunity for female technology majors to hear from industry professionals and young alumni about their experiences in technology.
Speakers included computer science graduate Kendall Lundschen (’11), information systems graduate Natalie Lemieux (’15), Jeanette Schofield, Software Developer at WolfePak Software, and Christy Thomas, General Director of Technology Services at BNSF.
Participants in the two-day event were able to learn more about the opportunities available in technology and encouraged in their pursuit of their professional goals. Jenni Williams, Enrollment and Student Development Manager in the SITC, started ACU’s chapter of Women in Technology last fall as a means of boosting female enrollment in SITC.
Virginia Pettit, sophomore Computer Science major, describes what it is like being a part of ACU’s chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).
What kind of projects are you working on?
The main thing we are focusing on is creating a new website and making it look good. We have put other projects on hold because we feel the website is our number one priority. We also have a lot of freshmen this year, so we are working on teaching them. We are going to have several sessions where we teach students how to use html and how to do basic web design stuff. That’s the main project we’re working on right now, and it will probably take the rest of the semester to get it how we want it.
How can students get involved with ACM?
Like I said, this semester we are really working on teaching students web design skills. For example, we had a student teach a session on web design. When we get our enrollment up more, we are going to have people come in and talk. In past semesters, we’ve had system administrators from ACU and people who work in programming come speak. There’s a lot of opportunities to hear from people in the real world.
What kind of benefits do incoming freshmen and current students receive by joining ACM?
Being a part of ACM really helps you get to know the other people interested in your field. It’s not just open to computer science majors; anyone from any major can join. You get to work on projects that are bigger than the scope of what you work on in class. You get to know these people really well and make great connections. For example, if you are working on a project in class and you get stuck on it, you can go to ACM club and can ask for help and someone who has taken that class can help you out. You really become part of the SITC community. I’ve enjoyed it immensely. We meet every week, so it is fun to have a designated time where we all can meet and I can see my friends.
What is your educational background?
Undergraduate: Harding University; Kansas State for Masters and PhD.
What is your work background?
I worked for Pennzoil-Quaker State in Houston for a couple of years and shorter-term projects at a couple other places.
What do you teach at ACU?
Introductory (freshman level) programming classes and the upper level computer science classes.
What drew you to teaching? Why did you want to work with students?
I like the purity that comes in an academic subject; when it doesn’t get mixed in with business needs and realistic limitations. I like computer science because it is beautiful. It is consistent, it makes sense, we can have an ideal, and we can know when it’s correct. When I was working at a company I found that those things were not always valued as much as dealing with other constraints. I realize that those things have to happen, but I like dealing with the subject in its pure form. I like watching people learn and I like helping people learn.
What’s the best part of working with students?
I think the best part of working with students is seeing them able to look back at a problem that seemed to them very hard at the time that they now think of as very easy. One of the things I like most is when I see students get that perspective of “I used to think that was hard, now I don’t. The thing in front of me now seems hard but there will be a time when it is not.” There is a path to work through. There are always things in front of you that you can learn. Once you’ve learned it, it makes a difference.
Outside of teaching, what passions and hobbies do you have?
I play disc golf. I go home and play with my kids. I really like to read, so I read a lot.
Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
What stands out in my mind is the first time I had somebody I had never met before contact me to say that they had read a paper or journal article that I had written and were trying to apply it but they had some questions and asked if I could help them with it. The first time it happened really stands out in my mind as a time where I felt like I’d finally become a real researcher. It wasn’t just people I knew who were reading my work, but people I had never heard of who had read my work and found it interesting enough and thought it had enough value to contact me to find out more about it.
Who is your role model, and why?
My father. I’m a lot like him in personality. I would say that a lot of the decisions I make are heavily based on things I’ve seen him do or deal with.
Who was your most inspirational professor and why?
Tim Baird, the department chair at Harding. He was very inspirational. He gave me a lot of opportunities to work on interesting things in and outside of class. He really encouraged me to push myself. He was very encouraging when I expressed an interest in going back to graduate school.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
I would want teleportation. I would want to be able to instantaneously travel from place to place. I don’t like to feel like I’m losing time traversing from one place to another. I don’t like to have to plan ahead. If I were on a trip, I wouldn’t have to pack a suitcase. I would just have to teleport back into my house whenever I needed something.
This month, Junior Computer Science major Kayla Holcomb presented her research at the Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education Symposium (SIGCSE) and won first place in the undergraduate research division.
What was your research about?
Over the last two years, I have been working with Dr. Pettit on automated assessment tools research. We have existing tools here in which students submit programs for feedback and grading purposes and are then given automatically-generated feedback and grades. For Dr. Pettit, this was part of his doctoral research. In our survey of the existing automated assessment tools, we found that the tools were lacking the ability to look at the process that a student takes from the beginning of an assessment to their final submission. Instead, most of the tools required the student to work on their own and turn it in after they have revised and edited it. We wanted to see step by step how the students go about solving a problem when they can’t get feedback from a tool. We wanted to find out how they solved it in sort of a testing environment. I built a simple auto-assessment tool that creates an environment where the student is working in the environment and we are taking snapshots of their works at different intervals. Then, we have this database full of all their work and time stamps and we can look back and see how they progressed. We can take it a step further and see when they first reached certain conceptual milestones. In other words, when was the first time that they achieved this step that we think is crucial to the assessment? We used that, plus the order in which the students organized themselves to work on the solution, to make certain assessments such as how well the student is understanding the concepts and how well the class understands the concepts.
What did you enjoy about SIGCSE?
I had no idea what to expect going into the conference. There were computer science educators from all over the world. These were professors, some of which have multiple doctorates, who have more published papers than I can count. These were people whose work I have read and that are very well known in the computer science world. There were also people like me: students trying to learn as much from these professionals as possible to go forward in our own careers. It was really neat to see other people who shared the same interests as mine; other girls in computer science education that are focusing in research. I got to see what other schools were working on. I think I learned just as much from them as I did the professors.
One great thing about the conference was that my research was being seen by all of these industry professionals. They were coming up to me and having conversations with me about my research and how my research applied to their research. I was able to make connections that I would have never had the opportunity to make any other time. I met people who are looking for undergrad students to be in their masters programs and doctoral programs. At the same time, I got to see a lot of other research. I got to see a lot of presentations and go to fantastic workshops. This conference was something I don’t think a class could replicate. I was very excited for this opportunity and I would definitely do it again.
Wildcat Software is the newest student-run organization by Wildcat Ventures. SITC students provide custom software solutions for various clients. It started two years ago and has acquired clients such as a local Abilene museum and vote.acu. Brandon DeLano, advisor for Wildcat Software, explains: “This opportunity allows students to get real-world experience doing software development, project management, and the overall process of running a technical company. It is designed to fill in the holes you don’t get in your undergraduate education”.
This organization is truly student-run. Connor Steinmentz, senior Information Systems and Management major, is the CEO. He is in charge of oversight of the company, hiring students, contacting clients, and maintaining communication with Wildcat Ventures. As he heads to USAA after graduation to work as an iOS developer, Connor reflects on how beneficial working with Wildcat Software has been. “This opportunity has allowed me to gain real-world experiences and do something that matters to people.” Brandon DeLano continues, “Any of the smart business decisions- it’s all happened because of the students. I have only provided a little technical advice and direction. Otherwise, they have made it their own thing”.
Though still in its growing stage, Wildcat Software is proving to be a great experience for students. It is definitely an opportunity all SITC students should take advantage of.
For more information and information on how to apply, email Brandon DeLano at firstname.lastname@example.org.