With a quiet computer lab, tucked inside the green walls of Resch Science and Technology Hall, Graceland’s Computer Science and Information Technology program doesn’t always get a lot of press. Consequently, neither does the Graceland branch of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM). Yet, the 2011-2012 school year has proven that these students are some of the biggest movers and shakers on Graceland’s Lamoni campus. And now, they’re pushing to make their voices heard.
For starters, the ACM Club started their own column in the student newspaper The Tower. Prominent club members, like President Alex Cash ‘12, Vice-President Brian Anders ’13 and Secretary Antonia Davidson ’14 composed articles talking about everything from computing conferences the club attended to the latest trends in technology. The column certainly was never lacking content—this has been the most successful year in GU’s ACM club’s history.
The club broke a number of its own records this year—members attended more computing conferences than ever before and brought in more guest speakers than ever before (six). The club also registered its largest number of new student members in the international ACM profession society and hosted their first-ever guest team, Simpson College, at their Saturday practice programming contest.
Computer Science Professor Jim Jones, Director of the Ackerley Computer Science and Technology Scholars Program attributes much of the program’s success to the Ackerley Program. Jones says that the program’s scholarships have drawn in quality students. These students stay involved with ACM as part of their scholarship. The Ackerley Program also provides money to keep technology up to date, bring in guest speakers, and send the club to conferences.
“Involvement this year was unprecedented. Members and professors had an awesome drive to have great activities and great meetings,” said Cash. “As someone who is tasked with planning I couldn’t have hoped for anything better. Every night we found ourselves fighting not to go late, and we ended the year with plenty of things left to do!”
This year’s ACM club met on a weekly basis, coming together more than 20 times throughout the school year. Meetings consisted of everything from discussing recent technology news, to student and professor presentations, to talks with guest speakers, to hands-on activities and picnics. ACM included 26 members, 15 of which were newly recruited this year. With 30 CSIT majors on campus, the club includes almost 80% of the campus’ Computer Science students.
And the team isn’t content to just hold meetings—they’re active across the country, attending a variety of specialized conferences and competing at computing conferences. In March, the club attended the local ACM conference at the University of Iowa, as well as the 18th annual Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges-Central Plains (CCSC-CP) at Ozark Tech in Springfield, MO. At conferences like these, club members attend presentations on various computer related topics, including computer graphics, game development, artificial intelligence, and web development
The most prominent computing conference the team attended was the Midwest Instruction and Computing Symposium (MICS) at the University of Northern Iowa. Twenty one ACM students made the trip, the largest group the club has ever taken to the conference. Three GU teams competed in the MICS computing competition, requiring students to solve seven programming problems in a three-hour-long period. Teams were primarily scored by how many problems they solved correctly, and secondarily by how quickly they were able to solve the problems. All three Graceland teams were able to solve five of the seven problems, which tied them for first; after speed rankings, Graceland’s top team came in an impressive 9th place overall.
Jones was pleased with the club’s performance, noting that the team doesn’t only have talented seniors, but a depth of youth talent as well. “We had so many years where students wouldn’t want to go to these conferences because they couldn’t solve any of the problems. They’d come back so frustrated that they couldn’t get the first problem right. So now, to reach a point where all three teams can solve five problems, that just floored me,” said Jones.
Cash and Anders also competed in the robotics contest at MICS, hoping to capture the 1st place trophy that eluded them last year. Coming off last year’s 2nd place finish, Cash and Anders entered a robot in this year’s competition that was able to reach and recognize the competition’s goal square. However, the robot was unable to return to its starting point due to a last-minute programming error. Despite not coming home with a trophy, the students were still pleased with their robot, even making adjustments to it and showing it off during Graceland Scholars’ Showcase.
With new records, experiences computing around the Midwest and appearances on campus, both in The Tower and at the Scholars’ Showcase, ACM is becoming a campus organization that’s hard to ignore. And on top of their club success, ACM members are finding professional success as well. ACM President Alex Cash and ACM-W, a subgroup of ACM dedicated to women, President Julia Wilkerson were recently featured in Graceland’s Project Success, a web page feature devoted to student success. Cash was featured for successful launch of iPredict, an iPhone application, while Wilkerson was celebrated for nabbing a job with Microsoft.
“I’m hearing about students that are going out and making salaries well beyond the ones we make as full professors, and I think that’s terrific. I’m excited about it, it means we’re doing good things. That’s what I want to see. I want to see them come back and be donors to Graceland. Computer Science is really a program we should continue to nurture,” said Jones.
Other graduates from the CSIT program have found employment across the country, Jacob Belmore ’12 recently secured a job with BST Systems, a software developer in the Kansas City Metro, and fall ’11 graduate Sarah Peters is working with Caterpillar in Illinois. Graduates from last year are working at businesses like Perficient and Smith and Associates, both located in Houston, TX. Students have also secured a variety of internships: Anders is spending the summer with Principal Financial in Des Moines, IA and Cash is headed to the west coast for an internship with Nest Labs in California. Students Andrew Fryer ’13 and David Walters’13 may find themselves among Graceland alumni this summer, interning with Houston, with Smith and Associates. The evidence is overwhelming: Graceland’s CSIT students are driven towards success. Graceland’s CSIT program continues to produce students ready for the work place, thanks to the support of loyal donors like the Ackerley family, dedicated faculty, beneficial clubs like ACM, and, of course, the passion and hard work its students.
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