SCE’s Three Time NASA Intern Extraordinaire

UMKC undergraduate student Kati Williams has been interning at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. She shared more about her work, her plans for the future, and advice she would give to other undergraduate SCE students!

What kind of work do you do as an intern at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center?

I assist in the software development and verification of the human rated space flight software for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). The team I have been working with consists of 20 software developers during a critical release phase of the flight software. I use a tool called ARTEMIS-MAESTRO, which is a rocket simulator used for integration testing for the SLS.

During the first part of my internship, I was able to create a lab manual, which documents how to use the system for different software tests. I have also created a tool which analyzes the results of the flight software unit tests and outputs a simple one page summary. This helps the software developers by giving them a snapshot of the results rather than them having to dig through several pages of reports. Hilariously enough, I have also learned how to use a slide-rule as a side project.

What got you interested in this type of work?

Aerospace has always been interesting to me. I think it’s very important to continue to send people into space because of the technological advances that come from the space program. When I started my engineering career, I knew I wanted to work in an industry that I was passionate about, so NASA is a perfect fit for me.

How did you get connected to this internship?

This is my third summer at the Marshall Space Flight Center. This summer, I am here as an intern for Jacobs (a NASA contractor), but the first two internships I worked as an intern directly for NASA. For my first and second NASA internships, I applied through the “One Stop Shopping Initiative” (OSSI) website and had a nice recommendation letter written by a UMKC faculty member. My mentor during my second NASA internship worked for Jacobs and I was impressed by the company, so I asked him to put in a good word for me.

What have you learned from this experience?

This internship has given me insight into how complex software systems are developed. It’s interesting to see how small changes to one part of the system will affect another part because not everything goes according to plan 100% of the time. Being flexible and adaptable helped me as I progressed in my projects this summer. Learning how to take criticism gracefully was equally important.

Why do you think internships are important for undergraduate students?

School and the professional world are very different things. I think school is important for understanding the theory behind the processes used in the real world. I think internships are important because they help bridge the gap between theory and application and better prepare students to enter the job market.

What made you choose UMKC?

I was looking for an engineering school which was ABET accredited, had the degree I wanted, and was located near Kansas City. UMKC met all of my requirements.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m planning to graduate in the spring of 2018 and I will be looking for jobs working with satellites or embedded systems within the aerospace industry.

What advice do you have for other undergraduate SCE students?

The best advice ever given to me is from a UMKC faculty member. “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Sometimes tasks seem monumental, but if they are broken down into smaller pieces they become much more manageable.

Alumni Q+A: Kiran Chelluri

Kiran Chelluri
President, Chelsoft Solutions Co.
Class of 2001
Current City: Olathe, KS  Hometown: Hyderabad, India

What initially attracted you to UMKC?
At the time of my application, I already had family calling Kansas City home. However, it was the smaller campus that ultimately attracted me to UMKC. I enjoyed the balance of a big city with a smaller campus community.

Tell us about an average day at your job:
As the President of Chelsoft Solutions Co., a leading information technology consulting firm headquartered here in Kansas City, I wear many hats on most days. I deal with leadership issues and strategic visioning, marketing and sales, client and vendor management, and organizational growth.

How did UMKC prepare you for your career?
My Masters of Science in Computer Science set up the foundation for my career. UMKC has a curriculum that matches with what the industry wants to see in graduates. I launched my career working for the Sprint Corporation. Their headquarters in the Kansas City metropolitan area allows for a lot of hiring opportunities for graduates. However, as the recession hit, Sprint Co. went through a period of layoffs that included me. This was the opportunity that really helped my career take off. I took it as my chance to start my own business.

What drew you to Computer Science?  
Computer Science has so much that is still unexplored and yet to be invented.  The field is always evolving and really encompasses all that is our future.  I like to be associated with cutting edge technologies. It gives me great pride to know that my work is part of building the innovations that will define the next ten, twenty, thirty, etc. years.

How do you keep up with the rapidly changing field of technology?  
I read lots of magazines, subscribe to newsletters, and associate with technology groups. To stay up to date with Kansas City and general business news I follow Inc. Magazine, Business Insider, Success Magazine, Fortune, and Ingrams.

What advice do you have for students entering the field?
Be passionate about what you are learning. Technology is still in infancy. Question the status quo and try to be creative and do new things. There are so many problems that can be solved.  Find your niche and most importantly, take action.

Alumni Q+A: Thomas Kimes

Thomas Kimes
Senior Stormwater Engineer, Water Services Department, City of Kansas City, Missouri
Class of 1987
Current City: Kansas City, MO Hometown: Kansas City, MO

Tell me about an average day at your job.

My work is highly varied. Sometimes I am a designer and sometimes I am leading a project team. I may be visiting sites to formulate projects or visiting a construction project to evaluate progress. Occasionally, I travel to Washington, D.C. to advocate for water resources infrastructure.

How did UMKC prepare you for your career?

One of the greatest benefits of attending UMKC was the opportunity to interact with people who were already working in the field. Whether it be my fellow students or my instructors, they typically could give examples or share experiences they had on actual projects. It prepared me to understand the reality of the profession I would be entering.

What project have you worked on of which you are most proud?

I’ve had the opportunity to work on many of the projects that help shape Kansas City – the Kansas City Streetcar, the Liberty Memorial Museum, Blue River Flood Control, and Brush Creek Flood Control. I’ve been very fortunate.

What drew you to Engineering?

When I was in junior high school, a group of college students did a presentation on engineering. It made a lasting impact.

How did you decide what area you wanted to work in?

My original interest was in environmental engineering. My second job was for the Corps of Engineers, so I developed an interest in waterways.

What societies and groups are you a part of and how do you feel that they have helped you professionally?

I’ve been a member of the Alumni Association for years and I feel it’s important for practitioners to reach out to students.

What do you love about the engineering community in Kansas City?

Being a center for engineering, there is a lot of career opportunities locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. I’ve had the opportunity to work with people who are at the top of their field.

What advice do you have for students entering the field?

Engineering is not a job – it’s a career you build over time. You start with your education, but continue learning and growing for decades. Every day is an opportunity to learn something, to discover something, to develop an idea, and an opportunity to contribute something positive to the world. Your work will directly impact people’s lives. Engineering is a noble profession.

Why KC?

5 Things To Know If You’re Moving To Kansas City

By: Molly Gilstrap, Computer Science Sophomore, St. Louis Native

1. I hope you’re hungry.
While this city is known for its barbecue, KC has a wide variety of dining options for whatever you’re craving. My favorite place to eat is The Westside Local. They have an on-site garden with herbs and vegetables and everything on the menu is delicious! Oh, and it may not be considered “fine dining”, but you have to go to Winstead’s Diner and ask for a Skyscraper Soda. You’re Welcome.

2. You’re a Royals fan now.
I came to Kansas City from St. Louis and foolishly thought that since the two cities weren’t that far apart, there were bound to be some Cardinals fans there right? Wrong. It’s a sea of blue here, so you’ll have to cancel your membership to Cardinals Nation (or whatever baseball team you’re a fan of) for the time being and buy yourself a new jersey.

3. You can shop till you drop!
UMKC’s campus is within walking distance of the Country Club Plaza. It has H&M, Kendra Scott, Urban Outfitters, Coach, Burberry, Forever 21, and more. I personally go for the popcorn and candy at Topsy’s, but that’s just me.

4. Take some time to enjoy the view.
One of my favorite places to go is the Liberty Memorial at the National WWI Museum. You can look out over the top and see Kansas City in all its glory! It’s pretty in the daytime, but I think the view is the best at night. Very Instagram-worthy.

5. You’ll have another reason to look forward to Friday’s.
Every first Friday of the month, the Crossroads Arts District hosts First Friday’s where you can enjoy live music, food trucks, art vendors, galleries, pop up shops, and more! You could even take a ride on the cool new KC streetcar to get there!

So let me be the first to say welcome to Kansas City! With food, music, art, activities, and lots of Midwestern charm, KC is a great place to be!

Alumni Q+A: Sean Eisler

Sean O’Neill Eisler
Vice President, Henderson Engineers, Inc.
Class of 1993
Current City: Parkville, Missouri  Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri
Find me on Twitter! @seaneisler

What is something that you wish was available to you as a student that current students at UMKC have access to?  

The access to technology and the information it unlocks was not available when I was at UMKC.  No email, no google searches, and the computer we had access to was a mainframe that ran on UNIX.  I didn’t see my first personal computer until my junior year, and it was running DOS.  Email and the world wide web didn’t become available until a couple of years after I graduated.

What project have you worked on that you are the most proud of?  

The projects that I am most proud of are the ones we undertake after natural disasters have struck.  It’s amazing to watch Mother Nature take a big, stout, commercial building and do the damage it’s capable of doing.  It’s also amazingly sad to see the toll that is taken on the human element of the aftermath.

We were involved with quite a bit of work in the gulf coast after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as well as several retail and education projects in the after the Joplin, Missouri tornado in 2011.  Watching the commercial construction community come together in a time of crisis and rebuild what once was is inspiring and gives me a lot of pride in my work and our industry.

How has the field of engineering changed since you started working?

AutoCAD was in the process of being adopted when I graduated from UMKC.  I interviewed at five consulting firms around Kansas City and two of them were still using manual drafting. Part of the reason I joined Henderson Engineers was because every engineer had their own PC and they were designing 100% in a CAD environment. Now our industry is moving from designing in a 2D environment in AutoCAD to the 3D BIM environment of Revit.

What advice do you have for students entering the field?  

My dad once told me that the only thing college does is teach you how to learn.  What is in your head the day you graduate is a foundation. It’s not everything you will need to know to pursue the career you have in front of you.  In fact, you will discover how much more you don’t know about engineering once you are out of school.  My dad also told me that it’s not what you know that’s important.  What’s important is knowing where to go to find the correct answer.  College prepares you to be able to learn without the structure of a classroom and a teacher.  You have to teach yourself once you get your diploma.

What had you choose UMKC?

I knew I was going have to work my way through college, and I didn’t like the idea of going away to school.  My Dad went to UMKC in the 50’s, so I was already familiar with the school.  As it turned out, not only did my Dad and I get degrees at UMKC, my wife, my brother and his wife,  mother in-law and father in-law, and my wife’s brother and his wife, all went to UMKC.  There’s 9 of us total.

Alumni Q+A: Srinivas Chilakalapudi

Srinivas Chilakalapudi
Chief Strategy Officer, Green Gold Animation
Class of 1994
Current City: Hyderabad, India Hometown: Hyderabad, India
Twitter Handle: @srini_cc

What initially attracted you to UMKC?
UMKC was working on the current hot technologies at the time I was applying. The application of Computer Science in the fields of Telecommunications and Networking was an emerging area and a lot of research was being done by many companies. UMKC was one of the few universities that was offering courses and programs in these fields.

Tell me about an average day at your job.
I am a member of the leadership team and most of my day involves solving critical issues. We have to check on our production schedules and stay in touch with all of our customers and partners. Making sure that everything is progressing smoothly is the main part of my regular day.

How did UMKC prepare you for your career?
At UMKC, as a foreign student, I had to juggle both my education and livelihood. I was a Teaching Assistant. Apart from teaching, attending all my classes, and following the research going on in my field, I had to take care of myself in a new country, understand its people and a different culture. This made me a tough and hardworking individual. I used to plan my day very meticulously in order to get everything done, which has served me in good stead even now.

What drew you to Computer Science?
I loved to solve problems and I was pretty good at math, so I was drawn towards programming and computing. New technologies like the internet, networking, switching, and mobile communications fascinated me and I wanted to contribute towards these cutting edge technologies.

How did you decide what area you wanted to work in?
I wanted to make a contribution in the area that I studied and that was an emerging technology field. During the early 90’s, networking was a hot field and companies like Cisco were still startups. I enjoyed being part and parcel of the teams that were making the internet and inter-connecting possible and we were constantly working on innovative technologies.

What advice do you have for students entering the field?
It is very important to learn the subjects, understand them in depth, and not be superficial. Though grades are important, learning and understanding the basics is even more important. You need to work hard and in a methodical way. Plan your schedules well and execute your plans well. That is the key to success.

Alumni Q+A: Ryan Fowler

Ryan William Fowler
Mechanical Facility Engineer and Energy Coordinator, Orbital ATK Lake City AAP
Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering, Class of 2012
Current City: Blue Springs, MO Hometown: Blue Springs, MO

 
Tell us about your job.
At my job I get involved with managing the plants integrated building management control system, HVAC systems, boiler/steam systems, and all aspects of energy management. I often have construction projects I am responsible for deterring technical requirements and in some cases supervise field work.

One project I particularly enjoyed was the design and implementation of a reverse osmosis treatment system at the Lake City Boiler Plant. I am part of the plant’s master planning process which determines the needs and requirements which will keep the facility in working order for many years to come.

I worked at my company throughout college and interned in facilities engineering. They kept me on once I graduated. I fit very well in this type of engineering and would recommend it to anyone.

How do you balance your work life with your personal life?
I work when I am scheduled to work and I’m home when I’m scheduled to be home. Keeping the two separate and staying focused on what’s important at the time allows me to manage my time well and keep a healthy balance between the two.
Sure there are overlaps every now and then, but they are few and far between. Family comes first, and if you’re working somewhere that doesn’t respect that then it might be time to seek other opportunities.

What advice do you have for students entering the field?
One step at a time. Listen to the experienced engineers in your group and ask a ton of questions, they will be your greatest ally in conquering this new and exciting world. You will make mistakes and you will learn from them. It’s all part of becoming a good engineer. Hang in there; this is where all the fun happens!

Alumni Q+A: Riddhiman Das

Riddhiman Das
Product Architect, EyeVerify, Inc.
Bachelors of Science in Computer Science, Class of 2012
Current City: Kansas City, MO  Hometown: Guwahati, India
Twitter Handle: @rdasxy

What drew you to Computer Science?
I was lucky that I figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up when I was still young. When I was 7 years old, my family got our first computer; I was so fascinated by it that I decided that I was going to become a computer scientist when I grew up.

I was exposed to computing concepts early– my parents would get me undergraduate level programming books while I was still in elementary school. They tried to get me the best resources possible to help me learn as much as possible.

I knew in my early teens that computing was going to bring about tremendous change in our lives, and that I wanted to play a part in the “Information Revolution” that was going to have an immense impact into the 21st century human civilization.

How do you keep up with the rapidly changing field of technology?
I often joke that Hacker News (https://news.ycombinator.com) flows through my veins. I am plugged into several online communities through social networking sites, as well as regularly reading numerous technical journals, blogs, websites, etc.

I have also started taking several MOOCs (massive open online course) lately through Udacity and Coursera, which has really helped me pick up newer technologies.

How did UMKC prepare you for your career?
The School of Computing and Engineering has a very thorough Computer Science program. The content I learned as an undergraduate was comparable, or sometimes even better than top Computer Science schools around the world. What was even better about the school was that because it is smaller, I had easy access to all my teachers and faculty. They all knew me personally and made several opportunities available to me that would not have happened at a bigger school.

I was part of several research projects that really helped me refine my skills as a computer scientist. It was also fun because I got to present my research at several conferences, where I met folks from universities around the world. When I graduated with my undergraduate degree, the research I was involved with was nearing commercialization so it ended up being my full time job.

Seniors Design App for Microsoft’s New HaloLens

By Alex Maurer

Every semester at UMKC’s School of Computing and Engineering (SCE), students apply their skills and knowledge to their hands-on Capstone Senior Design Project.  For computer science seniors Eric Lytle, Zach Wolf, Jarren Back, Cameron Knight, Eric Wilson, and Alex Mammele, this capstone project afforded them the opportunity to work with the innovative technology of the HoloLens.  Teaming up with the School of Computing and Engineering’s Recruitment staff, these seniors designed an app that can be used in high school and middle school classrooms throughout the Kansas City area to showcase the exciting and cutting-edge work of SCE students.

Through the use of the programming language Unity, a language that will be introduced into computer science classes in SCE this spring, they developed an app that provides a mixed reality for users that combines augmented and virtual realities.  With this app, users can spatially map the environment they are standing in and incorporate holograms that interact with their actual environment.  In this case, UMKC’s mascot, Kasey the Kangaroo, will chase after objects that the user can “throw” into their environment.  This gives the user a fun interactive experience with the environment they live in (augmented reality) and the objects created within the app (virtual reality).

Due to the recent release of the HoloLens, these students were presented with the unique challenge of not only programming the app, but researching and discovering how to create successful programming and code through a trial-and-error process.  While this process proved tedious, Eric Lytle noted that the “exploratory programming” of this app was one of their favorite experiences with this project as it allowed them to develop new skills and knowledge, and be at the forefront of technology.  Not only did this exploratory programming provide a unique experience for this group of students, it also stands to create new opportunities for future SCE students who seek to further develop the app and create new uses for the HoloLens.

Learn more about the HaloLens at: https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-hololens/en-us

View the HaloLens in action at SCE: https://www.facebook.com/pg/UMKCSCE/videos/?ref=page_internal