USF Computer Science Sends First Cohort to Tapia

Each year, the Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing brings students, professionals, and academics together to acknowledge, promote and celebrate diversity in computing. Participating for the first time, USF Computer Science sent five students to Orlando, Florida to participate, network, and recruit upcoming diverse computing leaders.

This year’s conference, themed Roots of Innovation “reminds us to celebrate the historical role of diversity with respect to STEM innovation, and declare it as a standard essential set of roots for computing innovation in the future.” We asked the student participants to share their experience at this year’s conference:

What was your main motivation for attending Tapia?

“To meet people in tech sharing diverse backgrounds and to meet people who want me and others like me to succeed in this space. Also, to meet those who have already attained success, and to pick their brain for tips I can incorporate into my own path to success.”

  • Kevin Beltran, BSCS Class of 2019

“The reason I attended the Tapia conference was to get a better understanding of AI, machine learning and cryptocurrencies. Also, since I am an Economics major, I really wanted to see how quickly I would adapt and understand the topics that were being presented in technical terms.”

  • Nicholas Lee, Class of 2020

“The reason I wanted to attend the Tapia conference was so I could learn about what is happening in the current technology sphere and have an opportunity to make new connections and network with people.”

  • Alejandro Garcia, BSCS Class of 2020

How do you feel the conference stood with its mission of promoting and celebrating diversity in computing?

“The conference did a good job of promoting a different range of diversity in computing including people with disabilities which were taken accounted for and had workshops to address diversity in computing.”

  • Alejandro Garcia, BSCS Class of 2020

“They did a pretty good job promoting diversity in computing because when you walk around the conference you see people of different ethnicities. Moreover, there were plenty of talks speaking about diversity; for instance.”

  • Nicholas Lee, Class of 2020

What was your experience at the Tapia Conference? What was your biggest take away?

“You really could see the diverse people in the conference. Seeing people that look just like just like you. You can sense the same aspiration and passion coming out of some of them when they speak about their journey and their future. My biggest take away from the conference came from the “Plenary Speakers” on Thursday morning. They spoke about people with low vision and how implementing this simple tech in glasses could help them find items quicker. What I learned from their presentation is that people in the tech industry are making tech for the masses and most are not making it for people with cognitive or behavioral issues.”

  • Nicholas Lee, Class of 2020

“The 2018 Tapia conference theme reminds us to celebrate the historical role of diversity with respect to STEM innovation, and declare it as a standard essential set of roots for computing innovation in the future. Conquering computing challenges going forward–while ensuring benefits across all global citizens–whether it is artificial intelligence, blockchain, cybersecurity, or a range of other subjects, requires the resources, talent, and experiences from a diverse collective. Just as we have embraced risk-taking, perseverance, and creativity as cornerstones of innovation, organizations and society must treat diversity with the same reverence.”

What speakers or sessions stood out to you? Why?

“The session that stood out to me was Taking on the Technical Interview session, which showed me about the ways to approach a technical interview. I learned about the importance of asking questions to the interviewer and that you should illustrate or explain your thinking process. As well it thought me about the importance of answering the question first with the simplest solution and then you go from there to find the most efficient answer.”

  • Alejandro Garcia, BSCS Class of 2020

“The session that stood out to me was “High-Performance Computer Networking: Moving Data Fast, Easily, and Securely.” This stood about because it was a more hands-on session compared to other other sessions I went too. After them introducing the supercomputer they had in New Mexico, we were getting onto our terminals and logging in to the actual supercomputers. The process we had to do was very vigorous and entertaining. Figuring out all the passkeys to keep moving on to the next step, and working as a team really kept me motivated about the task given. The presenters were all engaged with us and when we needed help they wouldn’t necessarily give us an answer, but guide us to the answer. You really could feel they cared for us and that is what stood out compared to the other presentations.”

  • Nicholas Lee, Class of 2020

What receptions did you attend and what did you like about them?

“I attended the Autodesk Luncheon. They were explaining their product to us, how issues in the group were occurring. Whether they wanted to implement jokes into their AI, so it could be more engaging, and how some of the members thought it might be a bad idea because some of their consumers in different areas would not like the jokes. I offered a solution to their problem by implementing focus groups in different regions of the world, so they could get a definitive answer of whether they should release it worldwide. What came about from one of the employees was a silence for 10 seconds, confused look, and defensive response about their product. I raised my hand for another question and her colleague told me no further questions for the time being. What confused me was the discerning look she gave to me as I wanted to ask another question. The nodding of her head left to right.”

  • Nicholas Lee, Class of 2020

Three of the five attendees from USF received interviews while at the conference, with one securing an offer before departing Orlando. Thanks to this year’s Tapia Conference student attendees, as well as the faculty and staff that supported their participation. These students will be the change agents for new research and development in computer science.

Article Written by Tinia Montford

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