My experience at JSConf Hawai’i and how I attended for free

Skimming through Twitter a few months ago a Tweet caught my eye: JSConf Hawai’i was being announced as the latest in the global JSConf series. It’d be happening in Honolulu, Hawai’i in early February, the call for papers (CFPs) had just been sent out, and they were offering diversity scholarships!

Within a couple of weeks, I had submitted a talk proposal and an application for their diversity scholarship. A few weeks after that, I got a reply. My talk hadn’t been selected but I had been awarded a diversity scholarship, which would cover the cost of my flight, hotel, and conference ticket. I was bummed my talk hadn’t been accepted but I was excited to go.

Months later, I found myself sitting in a room surrounded by fellow JavaScript developers getting the lowdown on the days ahead. I was thrilled to be at the conference for many reasons. The organizers made a noticeable effort to reach out to people from underrepresented groups in tech. The conference had an explicit Code of Conduct (COC). Plus ones were invited to some events. And we had the option to defer our swag and opt instead for a donation to be made to Aloha Lives Here charity.

During the opening remarks and via conference handouts the COC was brought up repeatedly and we were reminded to use inclusive language and remain mindful of those around you. This, coupled with great coffee and weather, meant the day started off on a high.

Things took a turn and I found myself on a conference rollercoaster. Speakers and MCs were using “guys” when referring to the audience and “crazy” when describing experiences. These are not inclusive words and can be triggering for some. I was taken aback when it wasn’t addressed, giving the impression the organizers didn’t care.

Along the left-rear wall was a projection of the conference logo on top of a backdrop that shifted constantly. Sitting near it was a mistake. The repeated flickering was distracting and anxiety-inducing.

Overall the talks I attended were great, but it was difficult to remain attentive towards the end of the day. It seemed like lighter topics were reserved for earlier time slots while talks that required more active thinking were held after lunch. Through side conversations and observation, I gathered that many were tuning out towards the afternoon. It didn’t help that there were no talk descriptions provided online or in handouts, which meant you didn’t really know what you were getting into when sitting down. This was not ideal and the first time I’ve encountered this at a talk-driven event.

Given the smaller size of the conference, I expected ample opportunities to speak with people about what they were working on and the tools they were using. Instead, I found myself wanting to run away because everyone else seemed to already know each other, huddled in large enclosed circles deep in conversation. Cue the imposter syndrome! I did end up chatting with a few people, but sadly all my interactions were quick and superficial.

The faltering on language usage and lack of thoughtful opportunities for people to interact (especially for those of us who are more introverted), affected my experience the most. Having run events and volunteered at many myself, some of these hiccups are notoriously difficult to get right—especially the first time around—while others require specific planning, foresight, and workflow for immediate action.

Conferences can be stressful and difficult at times. If you come in on the first day expecting every experience to be wonderful, you are in for a disappointment. However, the experience is valuable and worthy. At this event, I heard some exciting talks and got to interact with some awesome people. But most of all, I got to experience what it can be like to feel doubt and anxiety and I learned how to overcome those emotions and have a good time!

I loved the diversity in talk topics, speakers, and attendees. I thought the talks played well with each other and there was something to be taken away by people across different skill levels and backgrounds. While my conversations with people left much to be desired, everyone I interacted with was respectful and at no time did I feel unsafe. A total win there!

My top three talks were:

1. HI and AI, by Kyle Oba

Kyle discussed a project he worked on where facial recognition was used to match visitors at the Honolulu Museum with different art objects, whilst explaining the tech behind it in the process.

2. JavaScript is AsynchroWAT?, by Crystal Martin

Crystal talked about all things callbacks, promises, and async/await using female-relatable real life examples.

3. What Tamagotchis can teach you about ES6 generators, by Jenn Creighton

Jenn brought Tamagotchis to the browser and talked about optimization and state management using ES6 generators.

My favorite joke of the conference was from Kyle Oba when he uttered a slightly paraphrased version of: “…python, you know, executable pseudocode,” whilst discussing how it’s used almost exclusively in data science.

If you’d like to attend a conference and maybe even travel for free while improving your coding know-how, here are five conferences offering scholarships in 2019:

Want to speak at a conference? Get help crafting your first talk proposal for a conference or meet-up at an upcoming Global CFP Day. It’s free and held yearly.


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Battle of the Bots at Pace University

If watching robots compete to complete tasks entices you, then you should’ve been at Pace University on February 10th. The 10th annual Hudson Valley NY FIRST Tech Challenge championship robotics tournament was held on Pace University’s Westchester campus. The day was full of challenges and innovation for middle and high school students from the Hudson Valley. Only one goal stayed in each of the students’ minds throughout the tournament: getting to the world championship.

The event, run by Dr. Richard Kline and Jill Olimpieri, hosted 27 high school-level teams. The competition brought together the region’s top qualifying teams and their robots to compete in a task-based challenge. Pace University has hosted the regional championship for several years.  Pace University, Pace University Athletics, and IBM sponsored the event.

According to the Hudson Valley NY FIRST Tech Challenge site, “Students in FTC design and build a robot using aluminum, polycarbonate, motors and servos, sensors, and a variety of other materials. They program and control it using Android Smartphones with Java or a Blocks-based graphical language.”

With exclusive scholarships open to competing students totaling more than $80 million, the stakes were high. The challenge to beat this year was “Rover Ruckus,” and teams battled to take the top spots.

According to Dr. Kline, “More than 40 current Pace students and about a dozen alumni, staff, and faculty participated in the event, comprising half of the 100 or so volunteers who banded together to run the competition under the guidance of volunteer coordinator and Seidenberg School staff member Jill Olimpieri. Students contributed in all areas of the competition, from setup and logistics to referees, judges, inspectors, and robot technical advisors.”

Pace students and faculty Sukun Li and Leanne Keeley volunteered as judges for the event. Students Jeana Cosenza, Kyle Hanson, Joel Thomas, and Zach Demeglio, among others, volunteered in various supporting roles. Dean Hill even made a special appearance to cheer on the teams and robots!

Fios 1 News covered the event, giving the young students the chance to feature their efforts on the local news. The coverage inspired and motivated the students to share their experiences and do their best.

At the end of the day, three teams came out on top and will move on to the world championship. Congratulations to Team 6567 – Roboraiders from Red Hook High School, Team 7486 – Suffern Robotics from Suffern Senior High School, and Team 8397 – Beta, from CCE Clinton County 4-H. We wish the best of luck to them at the world championship!

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Nexus Maximus: a Wrap-up of the 2018 Conference

In September 2018, students from Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems presented innovative solutions to problems at Nexus Maximus. In order to showcase their hard work properly, we reached out to some of the students who attended the conference in order to hear about their experiences first-hand.

Nexus Maximus, created by Jefferson (Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University), is a conference which gives undergraduate and graduate students a platform to present innovative projects each year. The 2018 conference opened the minds of students to explore many topics, including improving health care access, designing healthy communities, developing new policies and business models to deliver sustainable value to the community, and building community diversity. According to Jefferson, students had the opportunity to “evaluate and seek innovation that supports the health and well-being of specific local community populations.”

Of the Computer Science, Information Systems, and Information

Technology students who attended the conference—Chinmay Joshi, Ronak Pansara, Ezana Ceman, Joseph Goggin, Kyle Hanson, Naglis Bukauskas, William Bender, Christopher Cherestal, and Laina Posner—two students got in touch with us to discuss their experiences. They outlined what they experienced and highlighted the best portions of the weekend-long experience.

Ezana Ceman, a junior undergraduate student majoring in Information Systems and a New York City Design Factory (NYCDF) Product Innovation Project (PiP) Member, spoke with me about the 2018 conference. She called the event a “fun and innovative experience” and described it as “a unique 3-day team challenge that allows you to step out of your comfort zone and use your talents to create an amazing concept.”

Some of the concepts worked on included strategies to battle food insecurity, homelessness, and much more. While the projects themselves shined a light on the groups’ innovative minds, Ezana explains that recognition wasn’t the highlight.

The best part of the conference is the community participation itself, according to Ezana: “you get to meet students from all around the world and work together to make society a better place.”

Nexus Maximus assists students by giving them the opportunity to learn how to develop and present projects, but the inspiration comes from the students themselves. The willingness to create innovative solutions to communities problems showcases the determination that these students have to create a better world.

Ronak Pansara, a graduate student who will complete his master’s degree in Information Systems in May 2019, also spoke about his experience at Nexus Maximus and the project that his team presented.

Ronak’s team helped people seeking help on NYC streets by giving them detailed and professional signs. He explained that his team’s “project “Signs of Trust” is all about helping homeless people in a unique manner.”

He says further, “This project was inspired by problems arising in many areas. [Their team found that] homeless people were either ignored or people would not trust them as they might not use [the] money for [a] good cause. So that’s why we came up with a unique solution for bridging the gap of honesty and trust.”

“My experience at Nexus Maximus was stupendous,” he states. “It not only helped me building my interpersonal skills, it also helped me in learning new things on how to work with people who were from different [countries].”

Ronak noted that the best part of his overall experience was “how [they] identified [their] individual strengths and weaknesses and how [they] utilized each other by working together in the project.”

“Though we didn’t win any awards, we did get one [non-governmental organization] (NGO) [which] supported our cause for homeless people,” Ronak states. The recognition in itself was a win for the team.

Another team, which included Chinmay Joshi and others, did get recognized with the “Maxime Innovation” award from the conference for maximum innovation. The team worked on a project, titled “Fresh Express”, that tackled how to better deal with food insecurity and waste within the Philadelphia area.

Overall, all of the students experienced growth and success at Nexus Maximus. Both Ronak and Ezana recommend this opportunity to other students. If you’re interested in attending in September 2019, grab some classmates and get to work on the next innovative idea!

The Fourteenth Annual Pace Pitch Contest

The Pace Pitch Contest was held on Thursday, April 19th, 2018, in the Bianco Room of Pace University, and we are proud to announce that our Seidenberg students achieved the first and the third places.

The contest started with a short opening speech by Prof. Bruce Bachenheimer, Executive Director of the Entrepreneurship Lab. He explained basic pitching rules to all of the finalists and welcomed the judging panel for the contest.

Each of the nine finalist teams were provided with 3 minutes of time and 5 slides to present their pitch.

Finalists had to touch upon the following during their pitch:

  1. Business description – details of the venture and what it does
  2. Market analysis – characteristics of the market and description of its customers
  3. Product or service analysis – the specifics of the product or service
  4. Competition – identify current and potential competitors
  5. Marketing strategy – how sales will be achieved
  6. Operations – how the product or service will be produced and delivered
  7. Management – an assessment of the entrepreneur(s) and team
  8. Finances – an overview of the required resources and economics of the venture
  9. Investment proposal – the terms and conditions offered to investors
  10. Presentation – overall effectiveness of the actual presentation

The judging panel –

Danny Potocki, Founder, FINIS Ventures

Christine Roth, Economic Development Advisor

Jonathan M. Satovsky, Founder & CEO, Satovsky Asset Management, LLC

Sandy Wollman, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Westchester Angels

With this, started the 1st pitch of the night-

Quincy Doccy (BS in Computer Science), Weichao Hou (MS in Finance) and Avinash Mudduluru (MS in Computer Science) presented AngelEats – an online platform building a bridge between restaurants and non-profit organizations and giving food to people in need.

Followed by that was Arogyaa – a mobile application that maintains patients’ medical history, and which coordinates with different doctors and helps them collaborate with patients. Arogyaa was presented by Ankit Mohokar, Chinmay Deshpande and Shivani Gade all from (MS in Computer Science)

The next pitch in the list was Cuddlefish, presented by Sumeet Gujaran (MBA in Financial Management) and Jethro Widjaja (BBA in Finance). Cuddlefish is a blockchain based platform which aims to promote financial inclusion for all through microfinance funded by retail investors in developed countries.

Our next pitch is iCards, an app which seeks to revolutionize the game designed by the pitchers, fully integrating the best parts of the industry into a comprehensive, universal platform to trade, play, and collect cards. iCards was presented by Jen McCall (BS in Computer Science) and John Mulcahy (BS in Computer Science)

Now it was time for Redact– a legal organization that works with individuals who have been convicted of a crime to have their criminal records sealed. It was presented by Christopher Matcovich (full-time 3L)

RockBox was our next pitch presented by Zakiya Sims ( Bs in Computer Science) and Nathan Robinson, delivers handmade cocktails from all over the world to the customers’ doorstep. With monthly subscriptions, customers will be provided with the alcohol, bitters, mixers and fresh produce needed to create their own boozy beverage.

Next pitch Sylvian Hyde was presented by Jabari Chambers (MBA in Human Resources and Financial Management) and Sylvian Hyde. It’s an emerging luxury menswear brand founded and based in New York City. The company currently offers ready-to-wear men’s apparel as well as custom and bespoke design services.

WOTOPA is an online platform where campus students can buy, sell, donate, offer services and can build an inter-university network by exchanging ideas and collaborating via forums. It was presented by Haseeb Ur Rahman (Computer Science), Suman Saurabh (Computer Science) and Varad Raj Shere (Computer Science) and Dipika Sankhe.

And the last one, @Pace (Augmented Tour of Pace University)– a Business-to-Customer (B2C) software startup focusing on augmented reality (AR). The program allows users to explore Pace University via a mobile application. The pitchers were – Kenneth Okereke (Computer Science) and Stephanie Okereke (Computer Science)

After the end of our last pitch, now it was time for the judging panel to make their decisions.

Here are the results:

  • AngelEats – Quincy Doccy, Weichao Hou, and Avinash Mudduluru was awarded 1st prize of $1000
  • Sylvian Hyde – Jabari Chambers and Sylvian Hyde achieved 2nd position with a cash prize of $500
  • iCards – Jen McCall and John Mulcahy received 3rd place and prize of $250

 With so many amazing pitches, the 14th annual Pace pitch contest was a huge success. And now we are eagerly waiting for the 15th annual Pace pitch contest next year!

Seidenberg also swept the stage at the 13th Pace Pitch Contest – read all about it here!

Seidenberg student Shaki Kar earns FAIT 2017 Fellowship

We are delighted to announce that Seidenberg student Shaki Kar (MS in Information Systems ‘19) has earned a position in the 2017 Foreign Affairs IT (FAIT) Fellowship program. Shaki is one of only two graduate students throughout the U.S. who were awarded the Fellowship.

The program is operated by The Washington Center for Academic Internships and is funded by the U.S. Department of State.

“I’m highly excited about receiving the fellowship because I look forward to serving my country by enhancing computer and communications systems security, and ensuring transparent, interconnected diplomacy, while incorporating new technologies for the advancement of U.S. foreign policy,” said Shaki.

In a letter to Pace University President Marvin Krislov, The Washington Center’s President Christopher Norton said “the Fellowship is designed to attract outstanding individuals from all ethnic, racial and social backgrounds who have an interest in pursuing a Foreign Service career in IT with the U.S. Department of State.”

The application process was tough. “After a very competitive application, interview and clearance process,” Mr. Norton said, “we are very pleased that Shaki Kar has been selected into the inaugural class of the FAIT 2017 Fellowship program.”

As a result of achieving the Fellowship, Shaki will spend summer 2018 interning in Washington DC and will go abroad the following year. Once he has completed these internships (and his degree at Pace University!) he will enter an appointment as a Foreign Service Information Management Specialist (IMS) for five years.

“Information Management Specialists serve their country by maintaining secure, reliable IT tools and resources to ensure that Foreign Service Officers, federal agencies and non-government partners can promote diplomacy while serving overseas,” Shaki explained. “Information Management Specialists gain experiences that few other IT professions offer, including the reward of living in a foreign country while experiencing different cultures and helping to protect U.S. interests abroad.”

“This is a very exciting opportunity for Shaki,” wrote Mr. Norton, “and we know your university must be very proud.”

Yes, yes we are!

Shaki chose to complete his master’s degree at Pace University’s Seidenberg School because “I wanted to find a flexible technology program where I would be able to combine my policy experience with hands-on technical learning, technical application, and technical knowledge. I felt that the Seidenberg School offers all the above.”

He added: “I also look forward to meeting Pace President Krislov in the future.”

“The experiences and opportunities that entail from a Fellowship like this are potentially career and life-altering,” said Seidenberg School Dean Jonathan Hill. “We are thrilled for Shaki and very much look forward to supporting him in his studies and seeing where this exciting journey takes him.”

The Washington Center will soon be taking applications for next year’s cohort of FAIT Fellows. If you are interested in applying, check back on the Fellowship website for updates.

A huge congratulations to Shaki! We can’t wait to hear all about your wonderful experiences on this Fellowship!

Celebrating our new PhD graduate, Dr Md Liakat Ali

The Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems’ PhD in Computer Science program has been seeing a lot of success recently! Although still a young program, we are starting to see our talented PhD students who enrolled near the very beginning achieving their goals. We are very proud to announce the successful dissertation defenses by new PhD Dr. Md Liakat Ali!

“The last three years of my life at Pace University have taught me so many things,” said Dr. Ali. “On the very first day at Pace, I got an email from Dr. Charles C. Tappert for Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning class. At the end of email, there was a quote: ‘If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research.’ – Einstein. Dr. Tappert, my supervisor, a wonderful professor and an expertise in biometric areas . . . inspired me in so many ways to complete my PhD.”

Dr. Ali’s dissertation, “A Hybrid Generative/Discriminative Approach to Machine Learning Problems with Application to Keystroke Biometrics,” involved the design and implementation of a novel method for tackling machine learning problems that worked to increase security using keystoke biometrics. The way we interact with our devices gives clues to who we are: how we swipe screens, the pressure we exert, the speed with which we type; all of this can be used as identifying factors that can be used to further secure our devices and digital accounts.

Currently, Dr. Ali is a Computer Science professor at Caldwell University, NJ, and is committed to continuing to pass on his knowledge in the classroom. “[M]y goals are to teach IT courses with most advanced theory and practical application, making students’ enthusiastic for advancement in technology and increasing their opportunity. I would like to continue teaching and research in Computer Science.”

Dr. Charles Tappert, Dr. Md Liakat Ali, Dr. Lixin Tao, and Dr. Li-Chiou Chen

He has published more than 20 international conference and journal papers, including at IEEE conferences on Smart Cloud, Cybersecurity and Cloud Computing, and Big Data Security on Cloud.

Fellow PhD student Avery Leider attended Ali’s defense. “What was awesome about Liakat Ali’s PhD Dissertation is that he continued research that was done earlier by the first PhD of the Computer Science PhD program at Pace University, John Vincent “Vinnie” Monaco, who did groundbreaking work in user authentication using the biometrics of how a person types on the keyboard. Vinnie now works as a Computer Scientist at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. Ali used that research, and went farther than Vinnie did, making this closer to being able to be used every day. Ali and Vinnie were both students of Dr. Tappert, who advised them on their PhD dissertations because that is work that he has been interested in for years. Maybe Pace University will become famous for keystroke biometrics!”