Thursday, May 22, 2008

interview with ka yee

ka yee is an university of hawaii student. i met her a little more than a year ago at the pacific modeling and simulation showcase. at that event, i gave a presentation to university of hawaii information and computer sciences students. during the presentation, i talked about what types of skills the students needed to be competitive in the job market. i'm totally syched that it seems like she took a little of my advice. she is one of the top students in the software engineer courses (413 and 414) and she is a selected student in the google summer of code. not bad for a year of work.

Hawaii's high technology industry starts with students. Without great students and a great workforce our industry will really struggle. That's why I focus a lot of my time on the students and bridging connections between students and industry. That's how I contribute.

However, I'm not sure the industry understands what the students want or needs. A question for you is what are the needs of students? What types of activities, events, competitions, groups, classes, presentations, etc do you think students could benefit from? Basically, what do students want to be apart of that supplements their classes? Or what should students want?

As a student, what I want to get most is information about the high-tech industry. We learned a wide range of technical knowledge from classes but very often I wonder about how they are actually applied in the real world. Knowing what is actually happening in the industry and what the current development trends are allows us to get a more accurate picture of how our skills can be applied outside of class.

Internship is obviously a good way for students to get to know more about the industry and obtain hands-on working experience. It would also be cool to have local high-tech companies work together with the professors. They can set up projects where students can take as ICS 499 projects. That way, even if the companies cannot provide a lot of internship opportunities, students can also get a chance to work on real projects under supervision of professor.

Other than these, it would be awesome if local high-tech companies can organize large scale programming competitions. It is hacking purely for the fun of solving the puzzle while giving us an opportunity to put the skill we learned from class into action. The companies can also get to know the students better through these events.

Company open-house is cool. I remember going to Referentia's Pacific Modeling and Simulation Open House last year which was an eye-opening experience. I was introduced to technologies that I never heard of before and that gave me an idea of what area I want to focus on for my ICS curriculum. It was actually your presentation where you recommended a list of technical skills and classes that make me decided to take ICS 413 from Professor Johnson.

Other than these, I also highly recommend my fellow peers to get involve in the ICS club. I am currently involved in a number of societies such as the Mortar Board. These are all very valuable experiences and I gained a lot from them. I think being great with programming is essential but not enough, networking is also very important. Knowing your fellow peers and connecting with people from the industry is very helpful as you can learn something from everyone of them. Also, it would be helpful in the long-run for your career. I think taking an active part in the ICS club would be a good place to start building up the network. The industry can help by organizing events such as talks, tours, project day, etc with the ICS club to let students know about the local high tech companies and vice versa.

These are what I think students would love to see from local company and what they would benefit from outside of classes.

ka yee brings up some very good ideas. "having high-tech companies work together with the professors" is a fantastic idea. having "real projects" and real problems are definitely a very good learning tool. large scale programming competitions is another great idea. in fact, we have been thinking about organizing one.

lastly, she brings up the ics club. and i totally agree, it should be really beneficial to be active in the club. but, i'm not sure the club actually meets and does things? i've been trying to find out more information about the club with very little success. if you know more about the ics club please let me know:
  • what is the ics club's mission?
  • who mentors the ics club?
  • how many students are involved?
  • what types of activities do they do?

    anyway, thanks goes out to ka yee for a great interview
  • Wednesday, May 21, 2008

    roosevelt high school career fair

    On Monday, May 19, 2008 I represented my company at the Roosevelt High School Career Fair. It was put on by the Oahu Workforce Investment Board and Roosevelt High School. The purpose of the career fair was simple, expose students to real world opportunities. There were 20 different presenters (here are few examples of the presenters):

  • Mark Matsunaga (former Honolulu Advertiser reporter/editor and KHON managing editor)
  • Jeff Coelho (Customer Services Director, C&C of Honolulu)
  • Gordon Bruce (Director of IT, C&C of Honolulu)
  • Dr. Clementina Ceria-Ulep (Department of Nursing, UH)
  • Dr. Gary Okamoto (Medical Director, Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific)
  • Clifford Lum (Director, Board of Water Supply)
  • Scott Seu (Manager, Hawaiian Electric Company)
  • Roy Yamaguchi (Roy’s Restaurants)

    The theme of the presentation is similar to my other presentations to high school students:

  • Software Engineering is the best job in America (according to
  • Software Engineering allows you to be creative and innovative
  • Software Engineers create anything from video games to iPhone software
  • Software Engineers work on cool stuff
  • There are high tech companies in Hawaii
  • College education is really important

    The presentations went well. Although, its hard to get high school students excited, I was able to get some “wow thats cool” comments when I demoed the Wiimote Experiments. A couple of students even raised their hands when I asked if any of them wanted to be a software engineer.


    it seems that students don’t really use that much technology. i don’t think that many of them constantly chat online. and when i asked about things like myspace not much of them raised their hands or seemed really interested. in fact maybe 3 students said they did things with html. so, i’m not too sure how tech-savy the average student is. my guess is that they don’t use the computer nearly as much as college or even college-grads.

    but, nearly all the students could relate to video games. main stream video games is probably our best way of connecting with students. but, it is a difficult thing to pitch because a “video game programmer” isn’t necessarily the best job in our industry.
  • Friday, May 16, 2008

    my company's hawaii food bank drive

    for the past three years, i've been helping to organize a food bank drive at my company. from my estimations, i think we raised about 2,300 pounds of food!

    from the start, we had an idea of buying our can goods cause a lot of the engineers didn't really have a lot of spare can goods lying around in their homes. so we raised some money and went to costco. we did some calculations and bought a lot of vienna sausage, because it had the most weight per cost and it was a meat product. the food bank has a top five wish list canned meats first, then canned meals, then soups, vegetables, then fruits.

    anyway, so the first year (2006) we bought 50 something cases of vienna sausage. here is what that looks like. being engineers we had a lot of fun making different formations of the vienna sausage blocks. and no it didn't fall down.

    this year we tried to kick it up a notch. and we did! we raised a record amount of money and i think we'll actually donate much more food than previous years. but, food is a little more expensive this year. for example, vienna sausage went from $6.44 to $6.99. anyway, like i said we raised a lot more money this year. so we bought vienna sausage, pork and beans, tuna, soup, stewed tomatoes, and corn. we piled all that up into two trucks and brought it back to our office. here is some pics from this years food drive

    its always a lot of fun the organize these sorts of things. the great thing is that i'm always really blown away by my co-workers generosity and willingness to help. i have some of the best co-workers ever (and i'm not just saying that)! our employee culture of giving and helping is really quite inspiring!

    here are some hunger facts from hawaii food bank

  • The Hawaii Foodbank network serves 131,862 different people annually
  • The needy face tough choices: 32% have had to choose between food and rent or mortgage bills, 27% between food and medicine or medical needs .
  • 48% of all clients served by the Hawaii Foodbank are classified by the U.S. Government's official food security scales as experiencing hunger.
  • Among households with children, 67% are food insecure, including 31% who are experiencing hunger.
  • 25% of all households served had one or more children under age 18 (32,965 children); 6% of all households served had one or more children age 5 or under (6,581 children).

    visit for more information on how you can help. its really not that hard to do and i hope other companies big and small will start their own food drive. not to mention its a lot of fun.

    next year, i'm going to shoot for 2,000 pounds of food. not sure how i'm going to pull that off, but its a great goal! wanna help?
  • Thursday, May 15, 2008

    should have tried to do the android competition

    one of my co-workers sent me this blog today; Google Hands Out $1.25 Million To 50 Android App Winners (GOOG). the winers were apparently just announced. and although i haven't been following this competition i did spend a little while thinking about an idea last year.

    my idea went something like this (a chat log from december 2007):

    aaron: i had an idea.
    aaron: its called browse
    aaron: browse is a software and hardware system that has a barcode scanner that will help you browse while shopping.
    aaron: like a book in borders. scan it in and see if your friends read it.
    aaron: or see if it had good reviews.
    aaron: or see if other people that liked that book liked another one.
    austen: so a in-store amazon
    aaron: browse is a system that can revolutionize shopping at the mall.
    aaron: yes
    austen: who shops at the mall anymore
    austen: haha
    aaron: haha. i always like going to borders.
    aaron: real books are cooler to browse.
    aaron: anyway browse is for more than just borders.
    austen: yah that would be cool if it was for everything
    aaron: browse opens up mall shopping to technology.
    austen: i usually shop for clothes at stores. if there was something that told me that whoever bought this shirt from prototype also bought this other shirt from information i would drive there and buy it
    austen: just cause its hard to find shirts that have cool designs that i like
    aaron: haha.. or a brand name was also sold at stores x,y,z
    aaron: and it costs
    austen: ooo what if it was on your phone
    austen: everyone has phones
    aaron: android!

    after sending me the winners announcement. my friend was quick to point out the first winner; Android Scan.

    Scan is an Android application that finds pricing and metadata for anything with a barcode. Here are some key features that make Scan stand out:

    * Automatic barcode recognition using onboard phone camera using ZXing
    * Shows CD, DVD, or book cover along with detailed reviews from* Searches over a dozen stores, both online and brick+mortar
    ** Highlights brick+mortar stores that are nearby, with option to call the store or get directions
    ** Links to online storefronts to buy online from the phone
    * Tracklisting for CDs, along with option to play sample tracks right on phone
    * For books, searches local libraries to see if they have a copy

    he even has a video of what his system does. go check it out.

    anyway, i was a little bummed knowing that my idea was really similar and knowing that i could have won 25k and potentially 100k or 250k. but, after 10 seconds of that i quickly remembered a post on software by rob; A Fool’s Bargain: Building Software for Free (or, An Idea Ain’t Worth Squat). here is the paragraph i immediately thought of:

    Every one of the good developers I know have tens if not hundreds of ideas for software products…it’s not a lack of ideas, but a lack of time that keeps us from building and marketing them ourselves.

    anyway... i guess its kinda of cool that similar idea won a google android prize. i don't know. it is interesting though.

    Thursday, May 8, 2008

    wonderful paradox

    i read the one minute sales person by spencer johnson a long time ago in college. and i just recently found it in the back of my shelf while doing a little cleaning. it's a very short book so i decided to read it again. the book is full of little motivational sayings like:

    I remember Thomas Watson, IBM's founder and chairman of the board, saying that in order to survive and succeed, organizations and individuals must have a sound set of beliefs on which to base all policies and actions. To meet the challenges of a changing world, we must be prepared to change everything except these beliefs.

    i really like this book, not because of the sale person advice, but because of one section in the book that talks about the 'wonderful paradox'. here is a couple paragraphs leading up to the part i like:

    "Making money is important. It is one of my goals. But it is not my purpose in life - nor even in selling. [said the teacher]"

    "Making money is not your purpose in selling [asked the student]? That's hard to follow. Why else would I be out there?"

    "I suggest that when you can answer that question, your whole career will turn around. It is the lesson of The Wonderful Paradox."

    here is that lesson:

    The Wonderful Paradox

    I have more fun and enjoy
    more financial success

    when I stop trying to
    get what I want

    and start helping other people
    get what they want

    this section of the book really inspired me to think of my purpose. and it really puts things in perspective for me and makes whatever i do more meaningful and fun. whether its writing software or helping at a STEM event, i strive to put people first. and sometimes you have to think of the box or look in places where people don't necessarily pay attention to. this concept is somewhat similar to my outward thinking post a little while ago.

    the strange thing is that i'm not sure if recommend this book to other people, because i'm not sure it would be that meaningful to other people. i'm not sure why i feel this way; maybe i think most people will think its corny and lame. but, it really makes a lot of sense to me. help people and you will succeed.

    Wednesday, May 7, 2008

    engineering banquet

    wednesday april 16, 2008 was the engineering banquet (i know thats a while ago, but i didn't get around to writing this post. better late than never). even though i'm an ICS alumni, i'm lucky enough to be able to attend this great event for the past three years because my company sponsors a table. this years banquet was quite special, because it is the college's centennial year! a 100 years of educating hawaii's students.

    this year's banquet was quite impressive. there were over a 100 tables of 10 people; for you mathematicians out there, yes that is over a thousand people. one thousand people supporting and celebrating the college. it was awesome to see that many people that cared about the college. even the guest speakers were quite informative and entertaining. they were all associated with the college either alumni or worked closely with the department. one thing that was striking was that it was really obvious the guest speakers had a lot of aloha for their college, professors, and students. they had a lot of pride and appreciation for the college. i thought that was really great.

    The College put together a great book celebrating the last 100 years of engineering education. i want to highlight this paragraph:
    A strength of the College has traditionally been the wide range of activities offered to the student body. There are numerous open houses, career days when companies come to recruit, and competitions. Many students have lasting memories of competing in the concrete canoe, micro-mouse, human powered vehicle, mini-Baja, Formula SAE, and nano-satellite projects. Open houses and school visits acquaint high school students with College of Engineering opportunities. Some 1,000 alumni maintain ties with the College by attending the annual banquet.

    engineering students sure do have a lot of opportunities. and i think it actually pays off. i've talked to a lot of engineering students in interviews and career days, and its obvious that the students gain a lot of very valuable experience. and these projects are real and competitive within the college and more importantly competitive against other students from the mainland. those skills are really noticeable in conversation and in interviews. the college's hard work is definitely paying off.

    as i was sitting in the banquet my engineering friends turned to me and said, what about your department (referring to the ICS department). i explained well ICS is a lot newer and smaller. i told them that we had our first alumni lunch this year and i don't think we have an alumni association. ICS had its 40th anniversary and COE had its 100th. ICS is a department and COE is a college. i silenced the table for a little bit, but then an engineer rebutted, "the college of engineering didn't have these cool opportunities when i was in school. all of this, these competitions, student groups, etc are all relatively new. so what is the difference between the two?" hm... i didn't know how to respond to that. i don't know what the difference is. maybe instead of supporting five competitions, maybe the ics department can just support one; or one every two years. i don't know... anyway, enough about that...

    back to the engineering banquet. this year's banquet was pretty awesome. actually, its pretty inspiring. i think thats why i like to go every year. the only thing that the college of engineering needs to work on is the singing of hawaii aloha. ever year they close the event with that and every year it seems like on a small percentage actually knows the song. i just find that to be funny...

    Tuesday, May 6, 2008

    STEM education

    i had a conversation with a co-worker yesterday about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. i've been learning more about STEM in hawaii and how i can help. i wanted to share some postings with my co-worker that are related to STEM and even supporting UH, so i'll just put them all here:
  • interview with lynn fujioka
  • showing hawaii high school students cool tricks with the wiimote
  • lacy veach day of discovery
  • ics alumni association
  • making students awesome
  • ics alumni lunch
  • my talk at the honors program
  • why you need to do a honors thesis

    we had an interesting conversation about STEM. the bottom line is that Hawaii needs to put more kids into STEM programs. the problem, is that no one really knows how to get the kids interested. well, after i thought about it for a little while, maybe getting kids interested isn't really the problem.

    i just read this Computing Group Strives to Get Teenagers Into Computer Careers. there isn't anything of note in the article except this funny paragraph:

    The two-year project will use thousands of computer scientists, as well as parents, teachers, and counselors to spread the word that computer scientists work in a variety of settings, not just technology companies. The campaign also seeks to dispel the stereotype that computer scientists are loners and that the acumen required to tackle the field is too daunting.

    haha. thats funny. we are geeks (maybe not loners) and computer science is a daunting field. hm... maybe that paragraph isn't that funny after all. i'm not sure, the problem is solved by just getting more kids interested. i'm not sure the problem is solve by just getting more high school students to sign up from computer science courses. in my opinion, we'll have what we have now - a large percentage of the students flunking out of the intro level classes, when they realize that creating a video game is really really really really hard. maybe getting kids interested isn't the problem, maybe its keeping them interested, moving them forward, and preparing them for STEM at the college level. its easy to "spread the word", but its hard to sit there and teach, mentor, and provide real STEM education.

    UPDATE we had a big discussion about STEM at lunch today. one thing that came up was, hawaii doesn't seem to have enough demand for STEM jobs. where are all the engineering jobs in Hawaii? i have no idea. in fact, engineers these days probably make less money than engineers on the mainland and then there are the cost of living. hm... i don't know.. i guess the discussion basically led to us agreeing that we don't know what the goal for STEM is. is it to have more students go into STEM degree programs in college or is it to convert students that are college bound to STEM degrees, or is it something else? we have no idea. maybe i need to research that a little...
  • Monday, May 5, 2008

    to estimate features you have to measure features

    i just read an article from 6th sense analytics. i've been talking a little bit about putting metrics at the task level in another email thread. i thought i share this posting with the entire group (so you can also start reading 6th sense's blogs). anyway, here is what the article said:

    We all know that developers can't estimate time, don't we? But why not? Developers are very smart. We deal with abstract concepts every day. You'd think we'd be able to learn this skill over time. But somehow we never get better at work estimation. Some people attribute it to a developer's innate optimism, and that's part of it. But there's a more important factor here.

    There's an old saying... "Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it". And as Einstein put it "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result".

    Here are you steps to improving your estimation attempts.
    1) Estimate smaller (more granular) features
    2) Always look back at estimates vs. actuals
    3) Get your feedback as fast as possible

    and i would agree. the article is focusing on time estimates, but i think one could utilize this technique for other metrics. one of the useful skills that i have been learning as i gain more experience is being able to think about and analyze the impacts of a new task, feature, improvement, or bug. i am learning to be able to evaluate the situation first before just diving into code. i do this by learning the necessary APIs, grounding the problem, and tackling small pieces at time. one thing that i feel is lacking in my quest to improve in this area is software metrics. i can use historical (previous task) data to help guide my planning; even if the planning is a few minutes.

    to be honest, i'm not sure it would be super useful. but it sure sounds useful. it seems that it just increases the fidelity that you have to make decisions and learn. i really think that putting metrics next to tasking will be useful to my development process. tasking is very important in the commercial world; it drives the development process. we don't have the luxury of saying, "oh, coverage is low lets do some testing". testing needs to be in-process during our task work.

    there are all sorts of things that we can do with tasking. for example, "hm.... i wonder if someone in the company (on another project) has seen this sort of bug before." anyway, thats a different issue; and something we haven't talked about in a while.

    anyway, we have to start measuring features before we can estimate features.

    UPDATE: this posting is what i kinda meant in driving your project with hackystat.