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Computer Science Conference Provides Perspective For Student

March 26, 2018
Woman poses for photo near boat in harbor
Lisa Stafford was one of 18 computer science students to attend the Developer Week Conference in Oakland, Calif., in February.

The Department of Computer Science at the University of Wyoming is committed to providing students with valuable educational experiences. Several got an opportunity to see industry firsthand in February, as Professor of Practice Mike Borowczak and 18 students from the department to the four-day Developer Week Conference in Oakland, Calif. The students who attended formed the bulk of a new course in the department, “Rock The Blockchain.” The curriculum involves creating a proof of concept voting system in less than a semester.

“I’d challenge anyone to find students at the undergraduate and graduate level in a course around the nation doing something like this,” Borowczak says.

Support and funding for the trip came via a generous grant provided by CEAS Dean Michael Pishko and Department Head Jim Caldwell.

Lisa Stafford, an undeclared graduate student who plans to apply to the department, offered her perspective on the conference trip. She is a non-traditional student and a 35-year-old mother of three.

What was your overall impression of the conference?
It was amazing to see the different world that we call "Silicon Valley." It is a much more frenetic way of life there. People in that world switch jobs every 18-24 months, and go “all in” to their jobs with high risk-to-reward ratios. They throw all their chips into startups based on the newest innovations and every brilliant mind has their battlefield stories. There are definitely certain aspects of their lifestyle that I think we could incorporate here in Wyoming to help us grow, while still retaining what we love about our state.

What do you think you gained from the experience?
Seeing such a different way of living solidified my love for Wyoming that much more, but it also made me realize how big the world is, and how much we have to think outside of our home state when considering the needs of the world. We are at an interesting time in Wyoming. We need to grow our technology sector to diversify the state economy, but we need to be careful with what sectors of technology we invest in. It must be something that’s sustainable long term. Machine learning and blockchain are two really strong areas of technological growth, but we need the minds to innovate the technology.

What was the most valuable part of the week as it relates to your education?
There were so many great talks at the conference. They covered many applicable topics, including Internet of Things, blockchain and machine learning. Seeing these technologies and their real-life applications was valuable. We also had the opportunity to meet with Punit Soni, a UW engineering alumnus who founded healthtech startup Robin. He has gone on a wild ride since graduating from UW, including working at Google and several startups. He’s a very smart guy, and knows how to hustle.

What is your plan for the next few years?
I currently work for UW Information Technology and I love my job. I plan to continuously improve at it, and I know that going back to school can only make me better at what I do. The best way I can show my kids that we are all a work in progress and always learning, achieving, growing, is to lead by example and continue doing so myself.

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