Spotlight on Software Engineering Students: Grace and Katie
Cornell University | Ithaca, New York
Major: Electrical and computer engineer | Minor: Computer Science
What made you decide to get into software engineering?
In high school, I made my first toy car using wires, sensors, and other components. I was amazed to see him do what I wanted him to do: not fall off the edge of the table.
Before I started adding parts and putting batteries in, this car was a piece of plastic that didn’t move. But now, after adding electrical parts, the car can drive anywhere I want.
This idea of creating and overcoming challenges is what inspired me to pursue STEM.
What do you like most about Cornell University and its engineering program?
What I love most about my school and our Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) program is that my classmates are so encouraging and willing to help, whether it’s working on a very homework assignment. difficult or trying to complete a large project. I was able to make the best friends because I know I can count on them and I had a lot of fun working with them.
In addition, I like to chat with my teachers. I love to hear why they are in ECE and their other interests that overlap with mine. Everyone reminds me that even in tough times you can do it because our motto is “ECEs can do it all! “
Can you describe a day in your life as an electrical and computer engineering student?
My Master in Engineering project is very interesting. I am able to combine my interests in art with my passion for engineering.
Using weaving techniques with pneumatic actuators (tubes that grow bigger like a balloon when compressed air is added), I am part of a project where we can change the shape of a surface. This can be applied to safer food environments for COVID times.
Another exciting project I worked on for a class was partnering with the local medical center near my university to create a system capable of monitoring patient health. This is really useful for patients who live in an area with very limited or no Wi-Fi.
What are some really cool things software engineers are working on?
The list is endless! Here are some examples:
- Autonomous cars
- Robots that help doctors perform surgeries
- Even faster smartphones and computers with better cameras
- Provide electricity to people
- Improve security so that no one steals your personal information when you buy something online
Do you have any advice for our readers who might be interested in a career in software engineering?
My advice is to never give up and keep working hard. You will become resilient and overcome even more difficult challenges!
California Polytechnic State University | San Luis Obispo, California
Major: Software Engineering
What made you decide to get into software engineering?
I went to a Girls-Teaching-Girls-to-Code camp when I was in the first year of high school and found that I really enjoyed coding !! We learned to code in an invented language called Carol. The code would tell a dog where to go.
We were given a bunch of different tasks, like jumping over cones or going around in circles. I had so much fun coding that I knew I wanted this to be my job when I grew up.
I always loved art, math and science a lot when I was growing up, so I knew I wanted to do something creative but in STEM. Both of my parents are computer scientists, so I was very exposed from a young age. I always knew that software engineering could be a possibility for me!
What are some really cool things that people in your profession are working on?
One of the amazing things about software engineering is that there is a coding project out there for any niche interest you might have.
If you like art, you can program video games and animated films. If you love psychology, you can design some websites and make sure they are really user-friendly! If you’re interested in physics, you could work on satellites or you could help write software that designs structurally healthy buildings!
Personally, I find autonomous vehicles and cybersecurity projects some of the most interesting to work on, but there really is something for everyone!
Tell us about a time you failed. How did you overcome this?
During my second year of college, I failed in systems programming. At the time, I had a lot of extra activities. I was very involved in the SWE section of my college. I was in a dance club on campus. I also attended two multi-day conferences for women in engineering. I tried to do all of this with an extremely difficult course load. I found myself on academic probation at the end of the term. I felt completely overwhelmed at the time.
I have learned and grown so much from this experience. Before that moment, I had always said yes to everything. I always said yes to volunteering at another event that needed more volunteers. I agreed to play in all the dances in the showcase. I jumped on all the professional opportunities. I even had a hard time saying no to spending quality time with friends when I needed it.
I learned that I completely surpass myself. I didn’t leave enough time to study and learn. I had so much fun with all the extra stuff that I wasn’t fully focused on what I was going to do in school. From this experience, I learned to say “no” and to put studies first. I also developed better time management skills.
It’s good to do the fun things you love outside of your studies. It is important for your mental health. But it’s also important to get the things that matter to you in order, so that you don’t lose sight of your goals.
How can cultural diversity benefit software engineering?
I believe that cultural diversity is extremely important in all fields of engineering, including software engineering!
Everyone comes from a different background. No two people have exactly the same experience. Because we all have different experiences, we all have different ways of thinking. We also have different skills.
Having more diversity in engineering will allow us to better find more complete and inclusive solutions to problems! An example of why this is so important is the new facial recognition technology that is being developed. Most of the engineers are white men, and the software has been tested on these engineers. Therefore, the results will be more accurate on people who look like the test subjects than on others. For example, if the engineers are predominantly white males, the software will be more accurate at identifying them than it would be on black females. It could be extremely dangerous. If this technology has only been tested on a group of people, it may make mistakes in other under-represented groups. The technology used to identify criminals, for example, can cause problems. The software could falsely identify an innocent citizen.
Having more diverse groups designing this type of technology will be better for the people it affects.
What advice can you give to young girls who want to go to college to study software engineering?
I would really recommend trying as many things as possible!
Cal Poly is a difficult school to integrate. The university application system does not have written essays. Test scores, grades, and extracurricular activities are all very important!
If you are interested in coding, I highly recommend that you join or start a club or team with an organization such as Girls Who Code, Cyber Patriots, VEX Robotics, or FIRST Robotics! I was in all these clubs in high school. I loved being able to discover so many different aspects of programming!
I also want to tell everyone that coding is for everyone. Try not to be afraid if it seems like the people around you know more than you do! This is what I really felt when I first started learning to code. Once I got the hang of it, I really started to like it. I’ve also learned that while some people may seem to know more than you do, that doesn’t mean they actually know. Many of them are just as nervous as you and pretend to be the smartest person in the room.
As long as you are passionate and eager to learn, you will do an amazing job !!