Seidenberg students fight poverty at Google hackathon

hack1On October 8, 2015, a team of Seidenberg students descended on Google HQ for a day of impromptu coding. The event was for a good cause: Techo, a non-profit organization that seeks to overcome poverty in slums, needed some help building an app that would make gathering information about families living in slums easier.

Techo is present in 22 countries in Latin America and works in over 670 slums every single week. It has implemented 450 community working groups thanks to the help of over 80,000 volunteers (with 800,000 volunteers having been involved to date). The organization has built over 105,000 transitional houses and 6,000 permanent houses, which can massively impact the lives of people living in slums. As if all that wasn’t enough, Techo seeks to empower families through education and community-building: 17,000 adults graduated in basic skills training programs and 26,000 children participated in educational programs thanks to Techo.

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Google hosted the event, and representatives from Techo and the television network Univision were there to steer (and record) the hackathon. Pace people present included Jigar Mehta, Dhruvil Gandhi, Virali Jhaveri, Robert Plumly, Vaibhav Dubey, Ethan Garrison, Hana Stanojkovic, Barak Michaely, Eiman Ahmen, Ava Posner, Hardik Patel, Jan Schoepp, Trong Le, Ritesh Pathak, and Preston Rollins.

The problem to solve was as follows: Techo workers collect information about the needs and conditions of the families they help by asking a series of questions. The answers are recorded by hand, and are entered into a database and organized so Techo can establish an action plan. However, due to the strict organization of the questions against the conversational speech style of the interviewees, this method is highly inefficient and keeps Techo from spending more time actually doing the good work.

Seidenberg students were on hand to help fix this problem.

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Techo already has an app that contains the questions, but it needed improvement in order to be efficient. The Seidenberg team split into three groups – one working on the front end, one on the database, and one on the form containing questions itself. Due to the nature of the hackathon, the team only had around 6 hours to work on the project – but they succeeded in improving opening the app, cutting out unnecessary questions and making the usability simpler.

It could be up to Seidenberg Creative Labs to finish the job!

Learn more about Techo and donate!

Niamh spent her summer at this tiny company called… Foogle? Gooble? Oh right – Google!

Nooglers Niamh and Megan
Niamh (L) and her fellow intern, Megan, wearing their ‘Noogler’ hats on their first day at Google.

1. Who are you working with this summer? (…and what do they do?)

 I am working for Google at their New York office this summer and they do a lot.

2. Can you tell us a little about what you are doing? (We might not understand the technicalities, but we’d love details!)

I am an Engineering Practicum Intern (EP), working on an internal mobile and web application in a division that creates apps for Googlers. I work on a team with full-time Google employees and one other intern. My summer project is to create a search feature for the application so I have been working on both the server and on android.

Through my work I have gotten to learn about how programming happens at Google. I have also learned a lot about the Google culture throughout the summer by going to events, lunches, and a Google Women Engineers conference.

3. Is there a particular class or professor at Seidenberg that has helped you prepare specifically for your current internship?(Clearly, we’re all about shout outs this summer!)

Although my work at Google is different than what I have learned in the classroom, the support I received from the Seidenberg community as I went through the process toward my internship was a great help!

4. Does your new office have a favorite restaurant/hangout they go to after work? (No! we’re not going to show up like proud parents!)

The New York office has five cafeterias that each offer a variety of cuisines as well as micro kitchens so there is no real need to go outside of the office frequently for food. The desserts and smoothies are my favorite, especially the frozen yogurt.

Niamh Fitzsimon is now a Sophomore here at the Seidenberg school, pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. 

1st year student, Niamh Fitzsimon returns to Google!

Niamh (pronounced: Neeve) Fitzsimon is freshman computer science and art (studio) double major from San Francisco. She’s Irish, and went to a small all-girls high school where she was forced to program in her freshman year. Niamh’s plan is to go into android mobile app development and work in Europe.

Friends from CSSI and Niamh, in a teacup at Google with an Android bot
Friends from CSSI and Niamh, in a teacup at Google with an Android bot

Q: This will be your second stint at Google. It can’t be just “Irish Luck” What’s your secret?

I am naturally an over planner which causes me to think a lot further into the future than most. Because of this I went on an extensive scholarship search during my senior year of high school and happened upon the Generation Google Scholarship. Applying for the scholarship meant automatically applying for Google’s Computer Science Summer Institute. Although I didn’t get the scholarship, I did get into the program. There I found out about the Engineering Practicum Internship, which I will be part of this summer. Honestly I was just shooting for the stars when I applied the first time, but I decided to put my doubt aside an just go for it. I think my “secret” to pass onto others is to ignore all the voices and apply for things. You have to tell yourself that the worst that is going to happen is nothing, and if you never applied it would be the same without the possibility of success.

Q. Tell us about Summer Camp at Google. How will this time be different? What are you looking forward to?

Last summer’s camp was days filled with classes, mentorship, and getting to know about the industry. It was only three weeks and included learning Python in a day and a half, thinking up and building an entire web application from scratch with a team in a week and a half, and presenting the application. The entire time was in Google’s Cambridge, MA office so I got to explore one of the Google campuses, but most of the day was spent in the same conference room. It was a wonderful experience and I learned a lot (You can find my team’s application at currentcssi.appspot.com).

This summer will be a completely different experience. First of all I will actually be working for Google, which means getting to work on one of their real teams on a real product and getting paid for it. The team I will work on, an internal Android app development team, is more in my specific area of interest. My team will be made up of full time Google employees, plus one other intern. I will be working at the New York campus, which is much larger than Cambridge. Besides the actual work I will have some computer science lessons and mentorship. Although the application I will be working on is internal, I am excited because people in Google will be using it. I am also looking forward to micro-kitchen access, nap-pod access (yes, they look exactly like the ones in the Internship), and meeting more computer scientists from outside of Pace.

Q. So is GOOGLINESS a real thing??

Googliness from what I have witnessed is teamwork. The employees work in teams and the offices have an open format, with each team basically sitting around a table. It is being able to have creativity and finding your own way to be productive. Googliness is wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and flip flops to work and having to worry about the Google twenty (the food is really good and free).

Q. You will be studying abroad later this year. Where are you going?

I will be studying abroad in Spring 2016. I am going to John Cabot University in Rome. I went to Rome on a pilgrimage the winter before I came to Pace and fell in love with it. I am looking forward to experiencing the Italian culture (and hopefully improving my Italian) and all the history Rome has to offer. I am excited to take a fresco painting course and an art history course that will have a trip to Pompeii. While there I will not only get to experience Italy, but also travel to different parts of Europe and experience the cultures (and the food) there.

I think every student should do a semester abroad at least once if they can, and if not at least do a summer or travel course. You get to learn more about the place (and the world) than when you go for a vacation. Hopefully you will also learn more about yourself. Even just being on the other side of the country from my home has taught me a lot about myself, I cannot imagine what I will learn while abroad. I like how Pace has events such as the Pace Path Live to expose students to the idea of studying abroad.

Niamh's ode to the Stars and Stripes - photographed and edited by her.
Niamh’s ode to the Stars and Stripes – photographed and edited by her.

Q. We saw you checking out the Ms. Marvel collection at Seidenberg. Big graphic novel fan?

Being a graphic artist myself I love looking at different aspect of design. Since I began art I have looked up to Andy Warhol and Banksy and more recently Fintan Magee (who I discovered through Buzzfeed: http://www.buzzfeed.com/simoncrerar/jaw-dropping-works-of-fintan-magee-street-art#.rwggV1KD6J), but the more I have gotten into the digital world I have appreciated the look of websites more. The websites with amazing graphics that move as the page does are my favorite. I am hoping to learn more about it in the Design for the Internet class I am taking next year.

Q. Tell us about the path you’ve traversed at Pace. How has it been different from everyone else?

My path at Pace so far has been mostly planning. When you take on two majors it takes a lot of planning ahead to fit all the classes needed in, and adding study abroad on top of that complicates things further. I have tried to keep a balance of CS, Art, and general education each semester. Because the two majors are so different my day is sometimes polarized, like walking into Mathematical Structures for Computer Science last semester covered with paint and my portfolio in hand, but I enjoy the balance it provides. I think my path at Pace hasn’t been very different than everyone else. If I had to point out one difference it would be that my exact plan was formulated early than most. Part of the reason I chose Pace was that I would be allowed to double major in two very different subjects and by the end of the summer I had solidified my decision to double major instead of just minoring in art.

“I will be attending Pace Path Live on April 25th. I am hoping to take away some new ideas to organize my time at Pace. Although I have planned out a lot I know there will be some curveballs and room for improvement in my plan. Overall, I believe it will be a fun and informational day.” – Niamh Fitzsimon, ’19, Pace University

Don’t Pass on Google Glass

“Ok Glass, write this down for me…”
By: Suhail Bhandari

Not since 1997, when Harry Potter first came out of his cupboard, have I heard such a rumpus over a pair of glasses! But this time, we’re talking actual magic. The kind of medical magic, where doctors don’t have to waste time sifting through tons of records in order to diagnose a symptom — or the murder-mystery kind, which drastically increases the chances of a detective tracking down a serial killer — or, for that matter, even the miraculous kind, which makes a blind man see.

Yet sadly, when it comes down to it, this is what 7 out of 10 people think of Google Glass.

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An End to Privacy
Really? Really?? How many of us continue to use Gmail, knowing full-well that each e-mail we send or receive is being read, scanned, and then offered back to us via an eerie personalized ad? Or how many of us continue to upload pictures of ourselves to Facebook and Instagram, adding to a massive facial-recognition database that we have no control over. Or how many of us continue to walk down a street, pinging our exact location to every server within a 10 mile radius, simply because it’s “it’s too much effort to turn off Wi-Fi detect.”

The answer is, most of us. But the truth is, all of us. That privacy-ship set sail a long time ago.

And no, Glass isn’t on all the time, and doesn’t record everything you say or do. (But if you’re still paranoid, look out for a bright red light located above the camera.)

It Looks Ugly
Sure they’re ‘bulky,’ ‘plasticky,’ and quite ‘constrained’ when it comes to color – but despite it all, people seem to love their Warby Parkers!

In its current, early version, Google Glass may have been referred to as ‘the scarlet letter of technology.’ But quick to change that, and in true Google ‘dominate-the-market’ fashion, their partnership with Luxottica might very well be the “biggest step yet into the emerging smart-eyewear market.” According to reports, the first smart glasses by Luxottica for Google Glass will go on sale in 2015 and be offered with brands like Ray-Ban and Oakley.

What Does It Do?
We’ve all seen the videos. “Ok glass, take a picture;” “now, e-mail it to John Smith;” “oh, remind me to call him this evening at 6pm,” and then some about videos, maps, and messaging.

But again, it’s more about the potential.

Google Glass is a first of its kind product, with a major company to back it. Quite like when the first iPhone launched in 2007, with its pre-installed apps and novel touchscreen. It had the same ‘worth it or just hype?’ question surrounding it. Owning Google Glass is like owning the first TV on the block. No one has seen it in person before and everyone wants to come over and try it out. Though, still more fun than functional right now, it has the promise of becoming the next big thing.

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How Do I Get One?
So, according to Mashable and Scotty Kowall, Google is planning on opening up a store right here in NYC, within purposeful proximity to the Apple Store in SoHo. With any luck, it’ll be across the street from Warby Parker, making it rather convenient for Google Glass buyers with prescriptions!

For the time being, the glasses are “BUY invite only.” Pretty much like when you first signed up for Gmail. The only difference being this time there’s a $1,500 acceptance fee! So, if you’ve been paying attention to anything I’ve just said and have the money to spare, their next guest list will be out April 15th, and you can sign up right here – Google Glass Registration.

So stop thinking of it as a fashion faux pas, or having to give up your privacy, and start thinking of it as the future, right there, sitting on your very nose.

P.S. If you want to try on Google Glass for free, stop by the Seidenberg School at 163 William Street on April 16th at 6:30pm. They’re having a small workshop that will teach you how to use them, let you play around with a few apps, and even introduce you to some of the guys that helped make Glass possible. See you there!