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Enjoying a Challenge

27 Sep

A student in a white shirt with beard and glasses sits by a computer with the screen off and other equipment.

Benjamin Polstra from Noblesville, Indiana, completed a summer co-op at GEICO in Chevy Chase, Maryland, that turned into a fulltime job. Polstra, who will graduate in sping 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in information technology, worked as a GEICO summer intern.

Polstra was responsible for a significant information technology (IT) business project—bigger than any project he had ever worked on before, and to complete it, he had to learn different tools and concepts along the way. He used his information technology skills on individual assignments and team projects, attended meetings and gave presentations. He was able to reach out to and receive mentoring from  team members and members of the IT management team. By the end of the summer, Polstra felt he had become a better developer with the increased confidence that came from handling a project of that size. He also learned how an insurance company runs and how they practice customer service.

He says that taking courses that taught the fundamental and advanced level of object-oriented programming, such as Java or C#, was valuable. The courses he took that teach client and server programming were necessary as well. The software design, principles and patterns, organizational behavior and apps development practices courses all were greatly helpful in his summer responsibilities, and taking on a leadership role gave him valuable experience in how to work with a team. He also learned that no matter where you work, asking a lot of questions is a must-have skill.

Polstra believes his degree will open doors to many opportunities. The coursework associated with it has prepared the fundamental bedrock, which he can use to demonstrate his knowledge of the IT field, and to work confidently with new concepts and ideas. He says that GEICO is the manifestation of how he’s been preparing himself; it has been changing, abandoning old traditions and embracing new ideas. The company has expanded its IT department rapidly to enable their growth spurt. That’s how he sees himself—growing rapidly to become not only a better IT person, but a more accomplished software developer.

Polstra offers the following advice for other students. “Don’t just work hard; play with what you like to do. If you are majoring in photography, play around with a camera.If computer science is your major, play around with a computer. Share with your friends and find mentors who can help you grow. You shouldn’t be discouraged by a challenge. Just try hard, and when you are successful, you will end up enjoying your success a lot more. Don’t think about grades so much because you will already excel at what you do, if you enjoy whatever you are doing.”

RIT to become first university to publish video game on Xbox One platform

31 Aug

Rochester Institute of Technology will become the first university to publish a video game on the Xbox One gaming platform when Hack, Slash & Backstab is officially launched on Wednesday, Aug. 31. The game, which will be available for purchase, will also debut simultaneously on the Steam platform and be available for sale through the digital storefront Humble.

Hack, Slash & Backstab was produced in residence at RIT in a studio course offered through RIT’s internationally ranked School of Interactive Games and Media, and the RIT Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction and Creativity (MAGIC).

The game won third place in the Best Visual Quality category of the 2016 Intel University Games Showcase in March as part of the 2016 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

RIT’s game design and development program was recently ranked third at the undergraduate level and seventh at the graduate level according to the new 2016 international rankings from “The Princeton Review.” More.

Building a portfolio is key

23 Aug

Student with sunglasses, plaid shirt, goatee and mustache stands beside Annex Business Media sign.

On co-op at Annex Business Media in Simcoe, Ontario, Canada, Curtis Martin applied his design and imaging technology training and enjoyed a  number of new experiences that helped him build a professional portfolio to share with potential employers. More

RIT/NTID team wins National Association of the Deaf College Bowl for the sixth time

22 Aug

Gerry Buckley in orange RIT golf shirt cheering w/four team members and two coaches in black RIT shirts holding trophy.

A student team from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf has won the National Association of the Deaf College Bowl academic competition for the third consecutive year, and earned its sixth victory overall.

Held at the biennial NAD conference since 1988, the College Bowl is a four-day question-and-answer academic competition with topics as varied as literature, science, mathematics, history and current events. The event, which brings together deaf contestants from top colleges and universities serving deaf and hard-of-hearing students, regularly draws more than 1,000 audience members to the finals.

Teams of four students from each school vie for the trophy and scholarships for their respective colleges. In addition to RIT/NTID, teams at this year’s competition held in Phoenix were from California State University-Northridge, Gallaudet University and the University of Minnesota.

The winning RIT/NTID team members are Lauren Berger, a psychology major from Rochester, N.Y.; Eric Epstein, a software engineering major from Tucson, Ariz.; Asher Kirschbaum, a mechanical engineering major from Washington Grove, Md.; and Emmanuel Perrodin-Njoku, a biomedical sciences major from Washington, D.C.

“The weekly practice throughout the year paid off big time,” said Epstein. “I am so proud of my teammates for their yearlong efforts in studying. I look forward to the next generation of Tigers who will undoubtedly defend the bowl.”

The team worked with co-coaches and RIT/NTID faculty members Christopher Kurz and Gary Behm to prepare for the competition.

“The entire RIT/NTID community is so proud of our College Bowl team for bringing the trophy back to campus for another two years,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “Lauren, Eric, Asher and Emmanuel did an extraordinary job against fierce competition. They are carrying on a great tradition, and it was wonderful to have so many of our students, faculty, staff and alumni in the audience cheering on our students.”

RIT/NTID, Xamarin Inc. collaboration to provide opportunities for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in mobile app development

9 Aug

Brian Trager in blue button down shirt gesturing in front of white board with writing on the board and overhead image display.

When faculty members at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf were creating a new degree program in mobile application development, they looked to cross-platform developer Xamarin Inc. for guidance and expertise. The result of this collaboration is the fall launch of a new academic program, which recently received approval by the New York State Education Department and earned a grant from the National Science Foundation of more than $820,000.

Funding from the three-year NSF grant, “RoadMaPPs to Careers: A New Approach to Mobile Apps Education featuring a Mapp for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students,” will train and equip students in RIT/NTID’s Information and Computing Studies Department where the new program will be housed, and is based on the Xamarin cross-platform approach to mobile application development.

Headquartered in San Francisco, Xamarin assisted in the development of the new associate degree program, and company representatives serve on the advisory board for curriculum review. The company recently was acquired by Microsoft.

“Xamarin has given us access to their ‘Xamarin University’ curriculum materials, provided data we needed for our program and grant proposals, came to campus to carefully review our plans and gave us invaluable guidance,” said Elissa Olsen, chairperson of RIT/NTID’s Information and Computing Studies Department. “We are so pleased that they have agreed to serve on our program advisory board and continue to guide the program in the future based on industry trends.”

The company also will support student-learning activities such as career awareness events and will hire students for co-op and full-time employment.

“We are proud that Xamarin will play a major role in the overall success of the mobile app development program, not only because the curriculum uses the Xamarin platform, but also because our experts will advise and assist the team on all aspects of the program,” said Bryan Costanich, vice president of education services at Xamarin Inc. “This is a unique opportunity to work with the deaf community to provide training and employment in one of the fastest growing industry segments.”