Intel Learning Company members Audrey Sullivan, Trevor Fiez, Josh Deare, Joe Runde and Dean Johnson.
Even in a sluggish economy, industries are still struggling to recruit computer science graduates. So, keeping students interested throughout their education is a common goal for both industry and educators.
Engaging the best talent as freshman is the aim of the Intel Learning Company (ILC), a joint project by the Intel Corporation and OSU’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS). Supervised by faculty members Carlos Jensen and Kevin McGrath, the students work in teams on real projects to gain valuable work-ready skills in programming, teamwork and leadership.
“We’re really emphasizing experiential learning and challenging students beyond what they can do right now,” said Terri Fiez, head of EECS.
Armed with their new skills, ILC students found summer work programming, teaching, performing research and community outreach. Students credited the ILC with helping to secure opportunities and be successful in their positions. They applied their lessons in networking, communication skills, problems solving, and workflow, and found having a broader range of experiences with programming languages made them more employable.
Josh Deare – Intel Internship
Josh Deare said if it wasn’t for the ILC he certainly would not have had the opportunity to do a summer internship at Intel. His confidence in being able to meet people and communicate effectively was not only instrumental in getting the position, but allowed him to seek out other opportunities for projects while he was there.
He said the exposure to industry was an invaluable experience — a completely different learning environment than coursework. “Working at Intel was like trying to drink from a fire hose instead of a drip irrigation system,” he said. “The first two weeks I was completely lost on half of what people were saying, but I walked away with pretty firm grasp of what the group was doing.”
Deare was thrilled with the opportunity to work on validating Intel’s 2013 processor line by building tools that would automate some of the testing. “It was incredible!” he said.
Joe Runde – Artificial Intelligence Research
Joe Runde could hardly believe his luck when he saw a job posting for programming an artificial agent to play StarCraft, his favorite video game. Under the supervision of associate professor, Alan Fern, he worked as a team with other students developing code for the agent to perform basic strategies of the real-time science-fiction game.
“I love programming but I had previously done construction work in the summer. This was a good opportunity to get paid doing what I love,” Runde said.
Although he felt confident programming in C++, he admits he was initially humbled by his lack of knowledge when he started the project, and the job motivated him to learn a lot more. He used his experiences in the ILC of working on a team and using a revision control system to collaborate with the other team members. He also got to experience working remotely for the first time, spending the summer at home in the Portland.
“The best part was seeing the results of our work put together — watching the artificial intelligence agent running around playing StarCraft doing the things it was supposed to be doing. And we were able to get it done by all working together,” he said.
Dean Johnson – OSU’s Open Source Lab
Dean Johnson said the additional coding experience he got through the ILC helped him land a job at the OSU’s Open Source Lab where he worked on a web manager for server side applications and the online search tool called The Protein Geometry Database (PGD) developed for OSU’s biochemistry department.
“I really enjoyed the experience. I learned a lot about programming in general and the basic workflow of how code is written and how it’s distributed out to clients,” he said.
Johnson said that learning how to give “elevator speeches” during his time in the ILC has helped him to communicate with co-workers and clients on the job.
Trevor Fiez – Teaching at OSU’s Summer Youth Program
Communications skills were essential for Trevor Fiez, who had the eye-opening experience this summer of being on the other end of a student-teacher relationship for the first time. He taught middle- and high-school students for OSU’s summer youth programs, showing them some of the basics of electrical and computer engineering.
He said that the ILC gave him a broader experience with programming which allowed him to speak with more authority and answer questions on the fly. But it also helped him to problem solve when he realized things were not going well.
“Accepting failure and knowing when to ask for help is part of what I learned in the ILC,” he said.
Fiez enjoyed seeing the kids build something that worked and sparking their interest in electrical and computer engineering. “I really, really enjoyed it. Every day I was excited to be there, and it helped me realize that I really like working with people,” he said.
Audrey Sullivan – Outreach for Women in Engineering
Sparking excitement was Audrey Sullivan’s primary job as a peer mentor for the Women in Engineering Orientation Program for freshman. Her own experiences in the ILC broadened her outlook for what was possible in her major, which she wanted to pass on to the group of women she was mentoring.
“I feel like I’m constantly finding new opportunities so I wanted to tell them about all the things they can be involved in,” she said.
Mentoring over the summer inspired Sullivan to continue to motivate women to stick with computer science as their major. She plans to stay involved during the school year with other programs for women in engineering like heading up study tables.
Getting beyond the coursework to have some real-world experiences made a difference to all of the students.
“It definitely confirms that I am in the right educational and career path with computer science,” Deare said.
—By Rachel Robertson