Monthly Archives

September 2016

Students

Vanessa Villa is fluent in gummy bears

We were won over instantly by Vanessa’s versatile outfits – somehow grunge and chic at the same time? Read on to hear about how gummy bears help her program, and the ways she disconnects from the world.

Tell us a little about you.

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I’m entering my last quarter at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, majoring in Computer Engineering. My small hometown of Fillmore, CA is agriculture based so I wasn’t really exposed to tech until I reached college. The family thought that since I was able to set up computers, I must be some sort of tech genius…That isn’t exactly how things worked out the first time I stepped into class. The introduction course was in robotics in C and it wasn’t till about the third project that things started to click. After that, every time I programmed I always did it with gummy bears or with friends and snacks.

One positive of coming from a town that was primarily Mexican is it did allow me to develop a deeper understanding of my heritage, animal/plant based agriculture, and speak Spanish fluently. Once, I was asked to give a speech to honor the high school AP Spanish teacher, Ms. Juarez, and had to present it in English and Spanish. She also was my first introduction to Salsa dancing. Little did she know I would later become dance obsessed in college. I love to dance; Salsa, Tango, Country Line and many others due to joining the Cal Poly Ballroom Team. This may explain my recent interest in sparkles.

Whenever things start getting busy in the quarter, I make sure to go out to the Rodeo Arena and take photographs, sketch, or just hanging out with the horses and cows. It is a space with little to no WiFi and a different perspective. Sometimes, that is exactly what a person needs to solve that coding bug.

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

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My first outfit is very versatile. I wear it for those days that I have a presentation and want to go dancing later. Its comfortable and edgy with just a little bit of class.

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My second outfit is more on the daring side. I like to think that it’s fun and certainly the best for exploring around. You never know when you are going to need to twirl or run around.

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

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When I first started playing around with different styles, I knew that I had to be comfortable in what I was wearing. I liked to think of myself as a bit of a rebel sometimes and quickly fell in love with the alternative/punk look. I also loved the iconic and classic looks of Coco Chanel. Why not wear pearls with your black skinny jeans and acid washed top? Lately, I have been experimenting with brighter colors and I can’t wait to see how it goes.

I also can’t help but to have been influenced by my surroundings; I’ve become enamored with both steel toed cowgirl boots and just regular old riding boots. I always wear high tops when going out on an adventure. There is just something about them that means I feel invincible when wearing them.

Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?

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If your field punches you in the stomach (which it will…last minute assignments are the worst) , punch back and do it the way your gut tells you to – if that’s by eating gummy bears at a hackathon, cool! If it’s by wearing a cowgirl hat while you code, that’s cool too!

Get an internship, shadow a professional, explore all of the field and find out what interests you and what you are passionate about. I think it’s very important to try and figure out what you like and don’t like about the field early on. Have confidence in yourself and your abilities…you may surprise yourself.

What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?

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There was a project this past year where we had a client that wanted an app to count cell colonies in a petri dish. Between working on the problem with the assigned group and in a Computer Vision class, we made a kick ass algorithm that was better than anything currently available in the mobile app market. I really feel like that project gave us valuable experience in designing a product from start to finish for a client.

This was the first time that I had worked with these people. I had seen them in classes but never really interacted with them. It was really exciting to know that we were able to get this done even while coordinating around other classes. By managing ourselves in a way we were comfortable with, we were able to become friends and get a good portion of our project done. We got really close as a group and still are – it created a support system in my major that I didn’t even know I was missing.

The algorithm was a great product but the experience and bonds created is what I value more.

Anything else you’d like to share with the audience?

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Don’t worry about what other people think and do what makes you happy!

At school I’m the unhappiest person when I’m stuck in my room by myself. My professors condemned collaboration in the introductory classes so that everyone would learn the material, but I do my best work in the computer lab. I need to goof off and have people around me to eat snacks with or talk about puppies and kittens.

Everybody has a different comfort setting and different interests, so acknowledge those and find ways to work around these situations.

What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?

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You can find Vanessa on Facebook or Instagram :)

 

Students

Julia Wu is handy with a handbag

The lovely Julia Wu turned out to be the embodiment of graceful elegance when we met her at Microsoft during her internship. She was bubbling over with cool projects to talk about, and we can’t wait for you to read on and see them!

Tell us a little about you.

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I’m a senior at Brown University studying Computer Science and Economics. I’ve interned at Microsoft and at a Brazilian IT firm, and I’m intrigued by technology that can augment the knowledge of people and businesses.

I’m passionate about creating things outside of the classroom – in the past, I’ve shared my rendition of an intelligent handbag with the global CFO of Chanel, and collaborated on a web application that retrieved on-campus events with free food so that my classmates could save time with Ctrl+F “free food” on Brown’s events calendar.

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

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In this first outfit I’m wearing an orange Versace dress that my mother gave me (right, mom?). I love the brightness of its color, and I can create a more or less fancier look depending on the shoes I pair it with. Right now I’m wearing a pair of nude heels by Christian Louboutin, and I appreciate how comfortable and sleek they are. To finish the look, I’m holding a white clutch with shiny jewels.

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I love this chiffon blouse from Forever 21 I’m wearing in my second outfit—I can wear it with shorts, jeans or pencil skirts. I’ve worn it to conferences as well as social outings, and I love the detail on the sleeves. I’m also wearing a pair of navy blue shorts I bought in a small city in China, along with sparkly Versace heels that are actually pretty hard to walk in—I’m not very graceful in them.

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

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My mother is an entrepreneur with her own brand for travel goods. She’s extremely chic and loves dressing fancy with colorful and shiny pieces. She’s a huge fan of classic designers, and we happen to be very similar sizes so we often share clothes – although I’d say that I’m not as bold with the colors and shine as she is.

I like to dress well because it helps me feel more ‘legit’ both in and outside of the office/classroom. I would say that my style is classy and delicate; I sometimes seek inspiration from fashion bloggers Jessica Ricks and Chiara Ferragni. I also love Blake Lively’s style.

Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?

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  • Ask for feedback as much as you can, and don’t let either the constructive or the negative feedback discourage you.
  • Focus on what you want, and stay focused when you’re working towards it. You have to be willing to jump on rocket ships, but also to say no to things that don’t matter as much (because there may be many shiny opportunities).
  • A quote I really like, but not sure who the author is: “The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullsh*t story you keep telling yourself.”

What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?

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About a year ago, I began working on an intelligent handbag with a couple other women in tech. I found a wearables hackathon online and thought, “I’ve never heard of this but I’m gonna go.” It was before the sign-ups opened, so I just e-mailed the organizers saying I was going. So one weekend last fall, my teammate and I took a bus to New York City and spent Friday night tinkering with firmware we’ve never touched before and then slept on the floor at the hackathon. The development also led to learning about iOS development, web design, writing business plans and patent applications.

Fast forward a few months, my teammate and I are sleeping on buses to get to Carnegie Mellon University from Brown, in order to pitch as finalists at a venture competition. I’m proud of this project because it helped me get a sense of how challenging and fulfilling it is to build a technical product and take it forward completely independently.

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Wow, we can’t for things like Julia’s handbag to become a reality (we hope they’re half as stylish as the ones she brought with her for our shoot!)

Love always,

Dona & Beth

Students

Alex Kearney shows us the dapper side of practical

Beth met Alex when she was on a trip to Edinburgh with Microsoft – Alex’s style is both unique and deliberate, which is always a joy to hear about. We traipsed around Edinburgh as the weather changed from sunny to blustery and drizzly; and her outfit performed exactly as well as she said it would! (Unlike Beth’s….).

Tell us a little about you.

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Part way through high school my parents wanted me to get a job. I’d just finished a computer science class which prompted me to look at working as a programmer. My local university happened to have research-based internships available to high school students, which gave me a chance to try out some of the things I’d been learning in school.

I had done First Lego League as a kid—a competitive robotics competition using Lego—so I was put with a group that was working with robots: the Reinforcement Learning and Artificial Intelligence lab. For six weeks I sat in a pen full of robots, making them learn from interacting with the world around them.

After the internship was finished I decided Machine Learning was pretty neat, and maybe I didn’t really want to study economics in university after all. I wanted to continue playing with AI, so I left Canada to study Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Even though I moved away, I come home every summer and work on biomedical robotics at the University of Alberta.

Basically, I’m a computer scientist now because my parents told me to get a job.

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

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The weather in Scotland is variable. One minute it could be a beautiful day, the next you could be struggling through gale force winds. Dressing for the elements is your number one priority. To keep cozy, I’m wearing a wool peacoat from Calvin Klein, Eddie Bauer Jeans, and a pair of obscenely comfortable Green Doc Marten 1910s. They’re all practical student-staples for traipsing across the city.

When you’re limited by weather, prints and patterns can make practical outfits more interesting. I’m wearing lord and Taylor blue button down and an outrageously bright Au Jour La Jour jumper. The sweatshirt is one of my prized finds: It’s funky and unique. The combination of sunshine-yellow and printed hyenas makes this my favorite piece.

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Continuing with weather considerations, in my second outfit I’m Layering. To keep the chill off I’m wearing a checked Uniqulo flannel shirt and an Eddie Bauer vest. The best part of that vest? It has pockets: so many pockets. Underneath, I’m wearing an Apollo 13 printed tee I got on a visit to the Kennedy Space Centre. Just in case the weather gets a bit testy, I’ve brought a scarf along that I nicked from a family member.

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

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Western Canadian style can be described as “whatever’s appropriate for the weather”: it’s very
Practical. What you wear has to withstand the elements, whether that’s protection for wading
through snowdrifts at forty-below, or something to keep cool during heatwaves. What you’re wearing has to fit your environment.

Weather also plays a large role in Scottish style, but it’s a touch less casual than Canadian. I try to balance the two by mixing casual and formal pieces.

Do you have any style icons or favorite brands?

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I’ve been enjoying the androgynous trend in mainstream fashion. My favorite manifestation of this is Esther Quek; an authority on all things menswear and fashion director at The Rake. She effortlessly blends street-style with spectacular suits. Not only that, but her command of structure, wild prints, and popping colours is unparalleled. She has a fresh street-wear meets dandy style which you don’t often see.

Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?

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There’s no harm in exploring tech to see if you like it: give it a try. Check out your local community, hit up a few meetups, find a hacker-space, talk to people. If there’s anything tech people love to do, it’s help people that want to get started.

f you’re wary of heading out to events, the internet is your friend. Asking questions with a few well placed hashtags on twitter will garner an outpouring of support and advice. That’s how I started learning about interaction design.

What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?

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Over the past few years, I’ve spent my summers working with myoelectric prosthetics—or bionic limbs. When someone has an amputation, they have the option of replacing their missing limb with a robotic prosthesis. I’ve worked on ways of improving control of these limbs by developing methods of anticipating user control signals. If the arm can anticipate a user’s intentions, it can partially take control, improving an amputee’s speed at completing tasks.

Watching an amputee wear a limb made by a team I was working with was incredible. A device I contributed code and research to was a literal extension of a person: a bionic replacement for their biological limb. It’s the ultimate example of wearable tech.

Are there any misconceptions about STEM fields that you’d like to clear up?

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People often seem to be wary of tech-related geekery; they avoid it because they don’t want to associate with its basement-dwelling anti-social stereotype: a very limited view of tech. Technology touches everything; its influence is far-reaching, impacting up and coming fields—like digital humanities—and established fields—such as medicine. STEM fields can be mixed and matched with anything you want to do. In that sense, STEM is the opposite of its reputation: it’s a liberating field with almost limitless opportunities.

What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?

I’ve got an indieweb blog, but I can be found on more traditional social media. My handle on most things is Kongaloosh, including twitter and instagram.

The work Alex is doing with bionic limbs is so fascinating – definitely follow her advice and ask (her) some questions on twitter if you’d like to learn more about it! Wearable fashion is fascinating to us, and we’re grateful to Alex for letting us showcase the more altruistic side of it :)

Love always,

Dona & Beth