Ambassador Highlight of the Week: Mazen Mansour

Egypt to UMKC

Name: Mazen Mansour
Hometown: Alexandria, Egypt
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Year: Senior
Clubs: Pi Tau Sigma, Research Assistant, Thermodynamics T.A., Math Tutor
Favorite class: Thermodynamics
Favorite place to study: Miller Nichols Library, 4th floor
Why you chose UMKC: I love Kansas City and UMKC’s class sizes. There are also lots of industry partners in Kansas City.

In the summer of 2012 I made one of the biggest decisions of my life. I left my home country Egypt, and started applying to colleges in the United States. Although I am a dual citizen, I had never lived in the U.S before. In the fall of 2013, I started as an Aerospace Engineering student at Wichita State University. My first couple of weeks here in the U.S by myself were very tough. I had to adapt to a new language, a new culture, and a new lifestyle, but I knew I came to U.S to succeed and success doesn’t come easy. I visited Kansas City during Thanksgiving break and instantly fell in love with the city. I transferred to UMKC after my freshman year and I am so thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had here.

When I moved to KC, my English wasn’t as good as it is today. I had difficulties understanding people at first. The first job I had in Kansas City was working at a McDonald’s. While I was only earning minimum wage, it was probably one of the most valuable experiences I’ve ever had. I was speaking to around 500 customers every day which helped me improve my English skills. Through my sophomore, junior and currently my senior year, there is one very important thing that I’ve learned; “The impossible is possible unless you say no.”

Since coming to UMKC, I’ve had the opportunity to work in various positions on campus. I’ve worked as a math tutor, campus host, teacher assistant, research assistant, and SCE student ambassador. This might sound normal for some people, but for me as an 18 year old kid coming from Egypt, to live in a totally new country was a big deal. And getting my first ever name tag or having my name on a syllabus of a class with my own “office hours” was an even bigger deal! My proudest moment was when I saw my name on a 4 by 3 feet poster for my research that I was working on this past summer. Besides working on campus, I was also blessed to get an internship at PAS Technologies, a manufacturing plant for small aeroplane parts.

I think to succeed in college and life in general, one needs to be optimistic. I wake up every day at 5:30 a.m. and say “Good morning, Mazen! Let’s go out and get it before the day gets you.”

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.

Ambassador Highlight of the Week: Kacey Henik

The Stem Career Fair

Name: Kacey Henik
Hometown: Independence, MO
Major: Electrical Computer Engineering (ECE)
Year: Senior
Clubs: SWE, Alpha Sigma Alpha, Mortar Board
Favorite class: Embedded Systems
Favorite place to study: Computer labs or my apartment
Why you chose UMKC: I wanted to major in ECE, which is a program offered at very few universities.

 

My name is Kacey Henik, and I am a senior in the Electrical Computer Engineering (ECE) degree program. ECE is unique because not very many colleges offer the combined electrical and computer engineering focuses in a single program. . This provides more career options for after graduation, even though most engineering degrees are fairly versatile in their career applications.

One of the events that UMKC holds every semester is the STEM Career Fair. My sophomore year, I went to the career fair in the spring where I secured an internship with Kansas City Power and Light. This internship was a great entry point for me and let me see what it was like to work at a utility. I loved how the company revolved around the customers and the way that we could best serve them through providing reliable and efficient power. However, I was still was not 100% sure what I wanted to do after graduation.

My junior year of school, I went to the fall career fair, after which I was offered an internship with Burns & McDonnell, a large engineering consulting firm headquartered in Kansas City. My first summer had shown me the utility side of things and this past summer showed me something new – consulting. On the consulting side, the project scope varies greatly, as we serve clients all over the country, and in some cases, across the world.. I really enjoyed the environment of the company and the variety in projects I was able to work on.

Seeing both the utility side and the consulting side proved to be great experiences for me and helped me to make a more informed decision on where I wanted to work for my career. I recently accepted an offer with Burns & McDonnell to work full-time after graduation (nine months before I graduate!), and I am thankful to be able to continue working there part-time while I am still in school! I attribute much of my success to the School of Computing and Engineering and the dedication they show us students. I am thankful to be at a university that is located in a place where I even get to start on my career a little earlier!

Ambassador Highlight of the Week: Katrina Flynn

Internship to Future Career

By: Katrina Flynn
Hometown: Papillion, NE
Major: Information Technology
Year: Senior
Clubs: Student Government Board for Dining Sevices, UMKC Grievance Committee, Student Staff at UMKC Welcome Center
Favorite class: IT 350 – Object Oriented Programming
Favorite place to study: Miller Nichols Library
Why you chose UMKC: I wanted to move to a bigger city.

 

One of the biggest reasons that I decided to move from a small town in Nebraska to Kansas City was because I knew that I would have more job opportunities in a larger city—and UMKC has not let me down.

I am incredibly thankful for the amount of internship opportunities that have been presented to me by SCE. I received my first internship at the beginning of my sophomore year, and I was truly blessed. I worked as an analyst intern in the IT department at ConAgra Foods World Headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska during the summer before my junior year. This was a great experience and I learned a lot about what I liked and didn’t like, in preparation for my long-term career aspirations.

During my junior year, I received another internship with a company in Kansas City called Protiviti, an internal audit and technology consulting firm. I was curious to take my degree to another level and see what different paths I could take with my major. I even got to travel with this internship! Training took place in Orlando, Florida for the first couple of weeks, and I was able to go to Disney World for the first time. Overall, this was exactly what I was looking for with my major. It was a great work environment with awesome people in the city that I love. Needless to say, I was happy to receive a full-time offer after I graduate—which I humbly accepted.

Ambassador Highlight of the Week: Chelsea Pfaffly

The Importance of Undergraduate Research 
By: Chelsea Pfaffly

Hometown: Pleasant Valley, MO
Major: Civil Engineering
Year: Junior
Clubs: SWE, Undergrad Research
Favorite class: Strength of Materials
Favorite place to study: Study rooms by the CME faculty offices
Why you chose UMKC: The opportunities and small class sizes
 
Participating in undergraduate research has always been on my bucket list. It is one of the most influential experiences that a college student can have. This summer I applied for the Summer Undergraduate Research Opportunity (SUROP) grant. Even though I was only a sophomore in the engineering program and I still had much to learn, I knew I could apply the knowledge I had to real life applications.
 
When it came to choosing what topic I wanted to focus my research on Dr. Hart, a civil engineering professor, helped guide me. She told me about her research on environmental concrete and I was super intrigued! The research I did focused on trying to collect the heavy metals from pervious concrete. I was excited about this experiment because if I could prove that the metals could be extracted, pervious concrete could be used as an economical solution to clean up mining spills. Because of this experience, I was able to spend my summer in a lab expanding my knowledge outside of the classroom and diving deeper into my interest in geotechnical engineering.
 
The biggest benefit for me was learning to think on my feet. Since I was conducting my own research, I was in charge of coming up with the procedure for the experiment. Quick thinking and innovation are not skills that can be learned in the classroom. They are developed through hands-on experience. During my research, when things didn’t go as I had planned, I had to resolve the issue on my own and be creative.
 
I am so glad I was able to have this opportunity. When someone asks me what my most meaningful college experience was, I proudly say, “My summer of undergraduate research!”

Ambassador Highlight of the Week: Kyle Rainey

Value of Internships

By Kyle Rainey
Hometown: Columbia, MO
Major: Information Technology
Year: Senior
Favorite class: IT 222 – Multimedia Design
Favorite place to study: My apartment or the UMKC Library
Why you chose UMKC: Smaller class sizes

During the fall break of my sophomore year, I applied for an internship at Cerner, a healthcare information technology solutions company located in Kansas City.  I was hired for the Kansas City Information Technology (KCIT) Apprenticeship Program before the start of the summer of 2015.  This program is designed differently when compared to a normal internship.  The KCIT program allowed me to work twenty hours a week during the school year and  forty hours a week during the summer.  My internship has allowed me the opportunity to put the knowledge I gained as a UMKC student in information technology to work – literally!  Although, Cerner has also given me the opportunity to learn on the job.  They allowed me to work on real projects and sit in on many meetings, further developing my skills as a professional in the field. Being a UMKC student has allowed me to have this experience and since many big companies come to UMKC looking for students to become interns, the connection was made easy.

After I graduate this fall, I plan to continue working for Cerner on my current team! Being in the KCIT program gives you the ability to continue with what you are doing after you graduate, if you were successful and choose to do so.  Working at Cerner has taught me a lot in the last year and I continue to learn more every day. UMKC has prepared me to work full time right after graduation and I look forward to starting my career with Cerner as soon as that degree is in hand.

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

Q+A With Alum: Cody Hill

Cody Hill
Manager, Energy Storage Systems, LS Power
BSECE, Class of 2010
Current City: Mountain View, CA (San Francisco Bay Area)
Hometown: San Francisco, CA and Kansas City, MO
Follow me on twitter: @Cody_A_Hill

What activities were you involved in at UMKC?

I was a recording engineer for Bob Beck at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance for five years which was an awesome gig! I also did audio work for the Marr Sound Archives with Chuck Haddix and KCUR’s New Letters on the Air radio program with Angela Elam.  The Communications Studies department let me teach a few workshops on audio editing, too.

I was active in IEEE, worked alongside Dr. Deep Medhi on a National Science Foundation funded research grant, and volunteered with Debbie Dilks (CSEE’s second mother to all) teaching science to children.

What drew you to Electrical Engineering (EE)?

I got into EE from being a musician (note: a poor one). My interest lead me to recording studios and concerts, where I began working as an audio engineer after high school.  When I first enrolled at UMKC, I was focused on media production in the Communications Studies department, but the more work I did with microphones and audio editing equipment, the more I wanted to master the technical side – pure EE and signal processing. You have to follow your passion if you are lucky enough to find it!

Did you take any technical classes in High School?

Quite the opposite, I was more of an art student.  Looking back, I wish I had done both.

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

As I got further into my EE studies I became really passionate about renewable energy and decided to make a shift from media to power.  Professor Mike Kelley was an extremely influential person at this time in my life.  He was so excited about power and energy and it really rubbed off on me.  After my undergraduate degree was complete, I went to the University of Texas at Austin to pursue a PhD with Professor Mack Grady. While there, I started working for an energy storage startup and that experience was transformative.  Energy Storage is a key in enabling technology for the future of our energy systems in a high-tech/low-carbon world.  And everybody everywhere needs cheap clean energy. I got my Masters Degree and put the PhD program on hold to work in the field full time. Today, I’m part of a private equity group that builds power plants and energy infrastructure in the U.S. with really outstanding management and coworkers.

How do you keep up with the rapidly changing field of technology?

I read obsessively, often for multiple hours a day. My RSS feed for general and industry news is something that I have been tweaking for years and I probably scan 100-200 article titles every day. With unlimited information at our fingertips, it seems like the key is setting up the right system of filters so that you find the good stuff fast, but are still challenged by people with different perspectives from your own.

Q+A With Alum: David E. Hawes

David E. Hawes
Senior Project Manager, Blot Engineering, Inc.
Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering, Class of 1986
Current City: Kansas City, MO Hometown: Leavenworth, KS

What inspired you to choose UMKC’s School of Computing and Engineering? I was looking for a program that allowed me to continue my career while getting a degree. The evening classes available at the SCE made this possible.

What project have you worked on since graduation of which you are most proud? While supporting an industrial client, there were challenges to complete a process and storm water treatment tank foundation and associated pipe rack during the winter months. The foundation required 185 concrete trucks and took over 20 hours to complete! The pipe rack involved structural steel design and auger cast pile foundations with pile caps. It was one of my most challenging projects but gave me the opportunity to use a lot of the skills I developed while at the SCE.

What drew you to engineering? I already had a background in construction, so engineering seemed like a natural next step. I had worked as a carpenter’s apprentice and then later became a journeyman bricklayer. Engineering was an opportunity to move forward in my career while still respecting my construction roots.

What do you love most about the engineering community Kansas City? I really love how many friends I have made. The engineers working for my own company, companies we partner with, and others I have meet through professional organizations have become a second family. These friendships have provided connections that have advanced my career in many ways.

Q + A with Civil Engineering Student Terry Bondy

Current City: Kansas City, MO  Hometown: Calgary, AB, Canada

Why did you choose UMKC:
I chose UMKC because I went to High School in South Kansas City, and UMKC was close to home. I also wanted to go to university in a city that was large enough to feel metropolitan, without being too large. UMKC also offered lots of scholarships.

What are you studying and why did you choose this:
I am studying civil engineering, with an emphasis in structures. I chose this field because I like to work with large projects, and I wanted a career that would allow me to work in different regions of the country. Since people will always need safe structures to live in, I figured it was a pretty safe career to get into. I also want to work with different industries. I like that structural engineers can build schools, hospitals, conference centers, office buildings, and lots of other things.

What do you love the most about UMKC:
My favorite thing about UMKC is how many opportunities there are to be involved. There are so many campus jobs, volunteer opportunities, and research projects available to work on.

What is your favorite class:
That’s a difficult question. It’s probably either CE 321: Structural Analysis, or CE 323: Steel Design. Until I took these classes, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to be a civil engineer. After taking these two classes, I learned how interesting designing structures can be.

Are you involved in any organizations or honor societies? Why did you decide to join:
Yes, I’m the Secretary for the Missouri Delta Chapter of Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society. I am also a member of the Student Activity Fee Committee, as well as the Steel Bridge Design Team. I also work as a student ambassador for SCE, a teaching assistant, and a math/physics tutor. At first, I joined some of these organizations so I would have something to talk about during job interviews! But looking back, the extra-curricular things I’ve been involved in at UMKC have been just as rewarding as the classes I’ve enjoyed