Rice senior Alisha Stupp enjoyed an AP Computer Science course in high school but never considered it as a major. “I was really good at math,” she said, “so I came in focused on engineering.”
As a freshman, she took CAAM 210. Stupp said, “It’s a required course for engineers and most of them hated the programming. But I really liked the programming part and nothing else in engineering was really piquing my interest so I started exploring the CS major. When I realized I could double major in CS and Math, the decision was easy.”
Stupp took her first CS course as a sophomore and declared CS as a major during her second course. Stupp said, “I liked the application of math and logic to projects in COMP 140 – it was a nice balance for the pure math in my other major. I really enjoyed the discrete math in COMP 182.”
She had her first experience with the challenges of starting up something new that summer. Rather than pursue an industry internship, Stupp looked for academic research work and talked to her ELEC 220 professor, Ray Simar, during the spring research fair. “I ended up doing some work for his team that spring for credit and then stayed to work for him that summer,” she said.
One of Simar’s projects was improving the performance of a drone motorcycle. “Ray handed me a brand new sensor, released only a few months earlier, and asked me to figure out how it worked and maybe write some routines for it,” she said. “There was very little documentation out there for the sensor so I wrote up a lot of that. By the end of the summer, I wrote a test program that allowed the sensor to detect a door opening, using the accelerometer and gyroscope sensors detecting velocity and angles.”
Within months of completing her summer research, she received her first internship offer during the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. “I’d been interested in attending Grace Hopper,” said Stupp, “but I applied too late for funding through CSters. Then Salesforce contacted our student chapter of SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers) and asked if anyone needed sponsorship, so I got in. While I was there, I did a lot of interviews; I was still awaiting offers and had interviews lined up, including one with Microsoft, when I got their offer. I really liked the people and enthusiasm at GE, so I decided to accept it and cancel my other interviews.”
Stupp’s internship with GE Digital placed her on a startup team inside the global conglomerate. She said GE’s CEO had recognized the impact data analysis could have on productivity in their internal divisions as well as for their clients. “My team at GE Digital began focusing on emerging critical markets, such as providing support for niche clients who did not fit their existing divisions like Aviation or Oil and Gas.
“It was a great internship,” said Stupp. “I was matched with three other interns for living quarters provided by GE. In our week-long onboarding process, we met with the managers of our projects over lunch; I ended up on a team where I built a user interface to manage one of the services they were developing.”
Her team at GE Digital built tools for use with Predix, an existing platform of microservices and applications tapping into the Internet of Things (IOT). “I considered Predix an operating system for machinery,” said Stupp. “If our client is producing jet engines, we can outfit sensors to collect engine data, gather the data through Predix, and analyze the data to provide our client with information to help them improve their engine performance.”
The client Stupp’s team worked with most had already begun using an optimized scheduler created by GE Digital. “A printing factory produces all different sizes of jobs from letters and mailers to posters and they lose time switching plates between the different sized jobs. My team built a scheduler to minimize down times and the client has already saved on their operating costs,” she said.
“My project was to build an app to accompany the alert system that sent email notifications to appropriate managers when various system levels increased or decreased outside of their pre-determined ranges. Before I began working on the team, the only way to configure the email notification system was by using the API via command line. It took a long time to use and only a software developer could use it.”
Stupp said she enjoyed the challenge and completely reworked the starter app in the 10 weeks she worked in Silicon Valley. “All the functionality they wanted is in the app and it’s an open source project on the GE GitHub, so any customer that subscribes to their notification service can go into GitHub and download it to create their own instance of the application.”
She advises new students who might be considering the CS major to take their introductory courses early. “I wish I’d started earlier, in order to take more electives later on. Of all the majors, CS is the one that most resembles a ladder. Every step builds up another foundation. If you plan well, you can get those early foundation courses in a place and still have time to plan where you want your ladder to lead.”