Announcement: Welcome to the Hampshire Alumni in Computing weblog!

November 6, 2010
by admin

This blog is for Hampshire College alumni who work in (or are just interested in) computing. All alumni should have author privileges here automatically. Log in with your HampNet login/password; if you need to reset your password then you can do so via password.hampshire.edu. Other questions about this site can be addressed to Lee Spector (lspector@hampshire.edu). Note that there is also a Hampshire computer science mail list.


Published!

August 31, 2012
by Adam Schwartz (aschwartz)

Hello again, Hampshire Alums.  I’m really pleased to be able to write an update on the Hampshire Computing Alumni Blog.  When I first wrote my intro, way back in Dec 2010 I alluded to a paper I was working on.  Well, in April 2012 (between submission rejections, some laziness on resubmission and editing on my part, etc.) it was finally published in the IEEE conference, ITNG 2012.  From there through IEEE conference publishing services, it finally found its way to be indexed by Google some time in the last couple months.  I just noticed it the other day, and for some funny reason that reminded me that I promised an update on this blog if/when I did get it published.  You can find a copy of it here, if you’re so inclined to read it.

On another note, it looks like my family and I will be moving back to the Pioneer Valley as well!  We love the area and my wife and I have always dreamed of being able to live in the area again.  It looks like a job change to a new role with Travelers Insurance in Hartford is going to allow us to do exactly that as soon as we sell our house here in Holden, MA.  We can’t wait to be back in the area and hopefully be able to give back to Hampshire.


CS Education

June 18, 2011
by Raphael Crawford-Marks (rpc01)

Hi Computing Alumni:

Hard to believe it was 10 years ago this Fall that I entered Hampshire College and had the course of my education altered by a 200-level class in Evolutionary Computation taught be Lee Spector.  From then on I focused on AI research, particularly in Genetic Programming, and Lee chaired my Div III: evolving teams of Quidditch-playing computer programs.

Since then, my career and interests have moved toward the intersection of computer science and education.  I have been working as an educator and curriculum developer in some capacity or another for the last four years, currently as an instructor with Year Up (http://www.yearup.org).  Year Up is a national nonprofit whose mission is to close the opportunity divide by providing urban young adults with technical and soft skills training, college credits, and a corporate internship.

In 2009 (at Year Up Bay Area), I developed a 24-hour programming course based on Program by Design project.  Executed as an extracurricular program, it took a small group of 18-24 year-olds who had never had a successful experience with math or CS classes from zero programming knowledge to developing games and animations in Scheme.  Several of the graduates of this course are now employed full-time at SalesForce, Mozilla and other tech companies in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Last year (at Year Up NYC) I developed a 7-week (70-hour) course in Software Quality Assurance.  This course was taught as an alternative to our existing Financial Operations and Information Technology academic tracks.  Students emerged from the course proficient in software development and SQA processes, software testing skills and strategies, and industry-standard testing tools (Bugzilla, JIRA, Selenium IDE).  Students were then placed in internships at Quality Assurance departments in leading companies (JP Morgan Chase, UBS, Deustche Bank, to name a few).  Feedback from those companies has been overwhelmingly positive.  Our students – with no college degrees or certifications, but with 70-hours of targeted, intensive training – are performing as well as or better than the college-educated entry-level testers these companies employ.

I’m really interested in continuing to explore new ideas in technology and computer science education.  In particular, I’d like to research alternatives to both the sequence and content of the traditional CS curriculum as well as how that content is delivered (college courses spread out over a semester vs. shorter, immersive courses, for example).  The nontraditional courses I took at Hampshire are one of the primary drivers of my belief that there are different and better ways of doing things in CS education.  If you share any of these interests, drop me a line!  I would love to swap stories and ideas.

Best Regards,

Raphael Crawford-Marks, F2001
raphael d0t crawfordmarks @t gmail d0t com


Introduce Chuck Connell (77s) and my new CS book

May 25, 2011
by Charles Connell (chc77)

Hi all,

Thanks to the Alumni Office for telling me about this blog. I am Chuck Connell (1977s). I did my Div III on linguistics but settled into a computer career after graduating. My first job was at Data General, during the time that the book “Soul of a New Machine” was being written about it. (Although I did not work on that project.)

I now work as a solo consultant, mostly in the IBM Lotus space. I also recently published a book of essays titled “Beautiful Software” about general software design/quality issues. Here are the links to the printed book and the Kindle version:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1456438786/

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00501MQYM

Chuck Connell, Bedford, MA  781-275-0484, www.chc-3.com


Launching a startup

May 25, 2011
by Vibhu Norby (vnorby)

Hi there – I introduced myself a couple months back, but I wanted to post an update saying that I officially launched my startup into an open beta last week. Tattle.com is the best place to share local business reviews and get recommendations from locals in real-time. If the idea piques anyone’s interest that knows Rails, Node.js, Android, iOS development or anything of the sort, give me a shout out at vn06 [at] hampshire [dot] edu. I’m thinking about hosting an intern in my apartment for the summer in Palo Alto to help give this thing wings. At the least, I’d love your feedback on what you like and what we could do better.

-Vibhu S06


Noho and Conferences

April 4, 2011
by Daniel Chapsky (dkc06)

Hey all,

I just graduated January(ish) this year which means I get to post on the blog. For My div 3 I worked with Lee Spector and Neil Stillings on using people’s Facebook data to try and predict their score on a personality test using probabilistic inference. Basically I got a bunch of people to take a personality test on Facebook, then used their Facebook data as a jumping off point to make a bunch of inferences about them. I incorporated a bunch of  external data sources like last.fm data and census data to help make those inferences. Then I used a Bayesian Network to generate a model which used Facebook data and those external data sources to predict peoples personality test scores. When I get some of my results uploaded online I’ll throw a link on here.

So now, like a lot of grads, I’ve moved to Noho. I’m planning on staying around town till the summer when I’ll try to get a “real” data science job. Until that happens, I’m basically trying to submit versions of my Div 3 to various conferences. So far I’ve gotten a grant to travel to and present at the useR conference in Coventry, England, which I’m pretty psyched about. I was hoping to travel abroad after graduation and conference-hopping seems like a fun alternative.(If anybody knows of any conference that might solicit submissions on machine learning applications in the social sciences, I’d love to hear about them.)

Reading about other alums has been fun and I hope to hear about more stuff people go on to do with their post-hampshire lives.


A visit back to Hampshire

March 10, 2011
by Adam Schwartz (aschwartz)

Hello again, Hampshire Alums.  I thought I’d take an opportunity to throw a question out to the crowd and get some reactions and potentially advice for current Hampshire students.  I had the exceptional opportunity today (because I live so close) to pay a visit to Hampshire and sit in on a class.

In this case, it was a 300 level class on Artificial Intelligence.  Generally, I think the class and approach is right on, but I found one thing about it of particular concern.  The class is structured around two small (4 people each) teams of students who are working (theoretically) together on expanding the research in a couple facets of artificial intelligence.  As I sat in listening, I heard an emerging theme – the focus that Hampshire puts on individuality appeared to be precluding students from actually working together.  As each student gave his update on the project, I realized that none of them (despite being on a team together) appeared to have actually worked together on anything.  Each person, to his capability, did what he could do to improve his own learning, but did little to nothing in collaborating with each other.  So extreme was the result, that on one team, two individuals had coded complete “solutions” without having ever seen each others work.  On the other team, two less skilled members of the team had been excluded from the learning experience almost completely, while the other two made personal (but not collaborative) progress on the project.

Now, I realize that opportunities exist that all the individuals may find their way into which don’t require collaboration, but for many (maybe even most) of us, we’ll be thrust into situation where we must work together.  I, myself, now recall with shame an early experience I had post-graduation with trying to “work together” with another Hampshire student.  Standing where I am now, and watching this unfold for another generation of students, I wonder, what can we as alums do to better prepare students to keep their individuality (I whole-heartedly believe I have not lost mine) and yet be able to work effectively with others?

My short list is:

  1. Plan to work together – at a whiteboard, in a shared space, whatever, to force collaboration as time permits… and sets the expectation that working together is expected.
  2. Write shared plans (what’s the problem, what’s the proposed solution), so that a cohesive vision of what needs needs to be accomplished is known to all and work can be assigned out, so when common time together doesn’t permit, you have something meaningful to work on and aren’t duplicating effort.
  3. Create space to collaborate online  – without a source for the code you’re working on, the documents you are writing, etc., we forget that we’re sharing with others.  (Plus, source code control is just a plain good idea).

I’m somewhat inspired by my experience with a group of NC State students I’m working with.  NC State mandates a Senior Design project which brings groups of students together in a more structured manner and provides a clear opportunity for them to collaborate on a project.  My $0.02 is that while Hampshire would never want to implement what NC State does, there’s something to be learned from what they are doing that could benefit our students as well.

Thoughts?


There’s an App for That

March 5, 2011
by Omid Mikhchi (om05)

I graduated from Hampshire in summer 2010 with my division III project “Designing an iPhone-like Backgammon Game.”

I worked a brief time as an iOS developer for a small game company in western mass. But after my contract was over in January I escaped the New England winter and headed out west. Two weeks of mad job hunting later I finally found the perfect fit for me as the mobile developer for Style Page Inc. where I get to work with an awesome team of engineers and lead the development of the iPhone and iPad apps.

I’ve only been in the bay area for a little over a month and everyday has been an adventure as I start my new life here. If your doing CS at Hampshire and thinking about life after graduation then your probably already thinking of coming out here. The weather is fantastic, I don’t think you will find a larger community of startups and creative people, and there is a surprising number of Hampshire alumni out here ready to help.

I also want to thank Lee Specter. The summer before I started my first semester at Hampshire I had given up on computer science, dissuaded by a bad experience in high school. But after taking Lee’s Creative Computing and Genetic Algorithms class my passion for CS was renewed. He agreed to be my division II and III chair and throughout my time at Hampshire his support and advise were invaluable.

So thank you Lee, and my best wishes to all future alumni.

Omid Mikhchi


Hello from CT

February 25, 2011
by Jessica Porteous (jep96)

Hi!

Thanks to Lee for putting this group together and I hope some great connections come out of it. My Hampshire education was a combination of early childhood and elementary education and computer science. My Div. III involved working with a class of fifth-grade students to design and develop a math computer game. In doing this project, I asked 2 questions: what educational concepts can students learn through creating a math computer game? What could the software development industry learn by developing new programs in partnership with children? The short answer to both questions was “lots” and it was a great experience.

After graduating from Hampshire in 2000, I went on to graduate school at the University of Maryland in College Park. While all of my research and most of my time was spent in the Human-Computer Interaction Lab, they didn’t have their own degree program at that time. Therefore, my classes and degree were through the College of Education’s Human Development department. While at UMD, I worked on several research projects, including designing the kindergarten classroom of the future and developing StoryRooms, immersive, digital, storytelling environments for preschoolers. One of the things that I liked best about graduate school was working on an interdisciplinary team, which included engineers, computer programmers, child development experts, and children. When the kids had an idea to create an interactive Sneetches room, the education experts could say what was developmentally appropriate, the programmers and engineers could make it come to life, and we all built it together. That was really fun! I left UMD after earning my Master’s Degree, though I had been enrolled in a Ph.D. program. I decided to spend some time getting “real world” experience.

After UMD, I held a couple of teaching positions, including as a long-term substitute teacher at the Hampshire College Children’s Center. Then I taught for and managed a local franchise business called ComputerTots/Computer Explorers. We provided technology education classes for preschoolers through middle schoolers in daycare centers and after-school programs. As the manager, I did everything from hiring new staff to overseeing programs to determining pricing for our programs. My favorite part of this job was designing and testing new curricula to teach robotics to elementary school children.

In the midst of all that, I managed to get married and have a child. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for the past 4 ½ years, since my son was born. Given my professional background and my personal philosophies, I have been debating appropriate technology exposure for my son. My husband and I decided to greatly limit our son’s TV and computer exposure before age 3, as well as really wanting to ban toys with batteries (we did restrict them a lot). As he continues to develop cognitively, we are expanding those horizons. At 4 ½, we did just build his first robot, which was lots of fun!

I have some questions for this group of Hampshire-minded people. How do you balance the technology you use in work/play with your family? Have you changed any of those habits since having children? How have you dealt with mainstream companies or universities after your Hampshire experience? Any creative ideas about research opportunities involving children and technology use?

~ Jessica


Rice Omelets

January 24, 2011
by Ryan Moore (ryan)

The leadership (the board on down) at Rice continues to give me and my team enormous latitude to pursue network architectures that are bold, cool, esoteric, weird, overpriced, too complex, or visionary  – all depending on who you talk to. In 2005 we were the first college or university network to use carrier architecture (MPLS VPN VRF segmentation). This spring we deployed into production “the world’s largest firewalls” – a pair of Juniper SRX 5800s that can push 120 gbps. And we made them clustered across 11km of dark fiber between two data centers. We’re still working out the kinks! At the moment we’re trying to get multicast working again. The clustering still isn’t working either. Ah well, omelets, eggs…

Credit card industry security compliance continues to take up LARGE amounts of my time.

I’m overseeing the installation of the IT infrastructure (data/phone/AV) into the new physics building. Working with architects is huge fun – this firm (KTA) is also building the new US embassy in London.

It’s been three years since I hung up my engineering hat for management role. I can’t stress enough how key my Hampshire background has been to this transition. Hampshire prepares their grads for bureaucratic middle management  – what!? LOL, a good topic for another post. Just trust me for now.