Society of Software Engineers fosters fun, creative community

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A. Sue Weisler

Whether they are mentoring their peers, flipping tables to de-stress during exam week or building projects, the Society of Software Engineers offers activities for everyone.

Dorrene Brown admits that the Society of Software Engineers’ lab in Golisano Hall gets lots of strange looks from passers-by. Whether it’s day or night, the glass-walled room is almost always filled with students building something new. 

“For most of us, the lab is home base,” says Brown, a fifth-year software engineering student from Rockledge, Pa., and president of the Society of Software Engineers. “Whether we’re helping a fellow student through a computer science course, building a mechanical archer project just for fun, networking with the creator of C++ or kicking back watching reruns of Doctor Who, we’re always having a blast.”

Started in 2002 by software engineering students and Lana Verschage, a senior academic adviser in the software engineering department, the student-run organization with nearly 100 members serves as a social and academic hub for students interested in fields relating to software engineering and development. The social community is open to all students, regardless of major, and focuses on scholarly excellence, networking and extracurricular projects.

During the day, the lab provides one of its most popular resources—peer mentoring and review sessions for students who need help with topics relating to software engineering. The group also holds crash courses for people hoping to learn a new technology or technique, and “tech talks” for members hoping to share something new that they’ve learned. 

“Most students join SSE because of the tutoring services but stay because there’s this wealth of knowledge in our community that you can’t get anywhere else,” says Jesse Jurman, a second-year software engineering student from Irondequoit, N.Y.

The group makes an effort to play just as hard as they work, with intramural sports teams, trips around Rochester, an annual Winter Ball in the Golisano Hall atrium for all RIT students and their newly popular table flipping fundraiser that helps students de-stress during exam week. They also host the Voices in Software Engineering speaker series that gives members opportunities to connect with industry experts like Bjarne Stroustrup, creator of the C++ language. 

But it’s the society’s newest addition—the projects committee—that is the most intriguing. Take one peek into the lab and you’ll see students building everything from a mechanical archer to a laser bass.

“The laser bass is a digital guitar system with lasers instead of strings that will mount inside an existing bass,” says Andrew Lyne III, a fourth-year software engineering and electrical engineering double major from Boston. “I’ve always loved music and mostly just wanted to prove to myself that I could make something this awesome.”

A recent donation from software engineering alumnus Alex Kipman ’01 is helping SSE get resources for the eight projects they plan to present at Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival, including a singing Tesla coil, an open-source library data-management system called Alexandria, and a 3-D volumetric hologram display.

“We’re actually working with an imaging science team to build the 3-D display, so for me it’s an experience that you really can’t duplicate in a classroom,” Jurman says. 

While the society seems to offer pretty much everything, members say there’s really one main thing that keeps them coming back to the lab.

“It’s the community,” Lyne adds. “Everyone is fun, creative and just the right level of nerd.”