A Revamped Campus Group Unites Computer Lovers

Computer Lovers Erica Gugliemella and Erica Feldman

Most NJIT students love computing, may it be the artistic side or the more analytical side.  And some students call upon both sides of computing to design their own videogames. Up until now, these students have pursued their computing passions alone.

But a newly revamped campus group is bringing all these students together.  The group, the NJIT Chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), is thriving, with 50 active members and 86 students who receive its emails.  It also has 15 freshmen members. The ACM chapter was formed three years ago, but it wasn’t until this semester, with new student leadership and support from Dean Narain Gehani, that the club blossomed.

The group has been hosting weekly workshops on topics such as "How to put a Google Calendar Up on Your Website" and "Water Cooling and Over-clocking Your System.”  Upcoming workshops will focus on "How to disassemble a laptop" and "Using RAID.” The group also had a Windows 7 launch party at the campus pub, where members demonstrated the new operating system and raffled off a net book and external hard drives.

The workshops are hosted by members, who have so far formed three special interest groups in Linux, Game Design, and Graphical Design. Students are encouraged to start more interest groups.  The club will also visit corporate computing centers, attend conferences and invite leaders in the computing field to speak at NJIT. Some club members will also tutor computing-science students; while others plan to start a new computer help desk.  

ACM, which is open to all NJIT students, meets every Monday at noon in Kupfrian Hall, room 204.  Students can also email club president, Erica Feldman, at eaf9@njit.edu. In this interview, Feldman, an Information Technology major with a concentration in Network Security who will graduate in 2010, talks about the club.  Also included in the interview is club treasurer Erica Gugliemella (elg2@njit.edu), an Information Technology major who likes to designs websites. She, too, is due to graduate in 2010. Both Ericas also have internships related to their interests, which they also discuss.

Erica Feldman:

What aspects of computing are your members interested in?

EF: As a whole, our members meet every Monday, go on trips to companies, attend workshops and bring in guest lecturers.  Also, if members have a certain interest or focus, they’ll also attend special interest group (SIG) meetings. So far we have three SIGs.

Our game design SIG is the most active; it’s so large that members can no longer meet in the office.  The Linux SIG is writing Perl and Python scripts.  And the website development SIG is working on the group website. Students should check out our calendar: njit.acm.org/calendar to see what is happening. Our newest SIG is the computer help desk group.  They want to fix computers or laptops for a minimal fee, mostly so they can learn how to troubleshoot.  The help desk should be up and running by the end of the semester.  One of our graduate students wants to start an iPhone app SIG, and I was thinking of forming a SIG that would focus on computer networking.

Is the club uniting a lot of the computer lovers on campus?

EF: The club absolutely unites students who would otherwise be on their own. That's the whole point of ACM!  We want to unite students who share a similar passion. We want to learn a lot together while having fun socially.

Can you talk about the workshops you’ve already hosted?

EF: We've had three workshops so far: one focused on taking computers apart; one on water-cooling and over-clocking (which was really amazing!), and one specifically on dissembling laptops.  We are planning several more workshops, and when they are definite I'll post them to our website’s calendar. Basically any member who wants to run a workshop is welcome, and if we all share our knowledge we will learn quite a bit from each other.   Also, specific to network security, we are planning a trip to Prudential's data center and operations control center.

You’re interest in IT is already paying off.  You are now working an internship while taking classes.  Talk about your internship and the work you do there. Will the internship help you get a job after you graduate?

EF: I’m currently working as a technology services intern at John Wiley & Sons, the publishing house. I do a lot of hands-on networking stuff.  Configuring and racking switches and routers, crimping and running (and sometimes pulling) cables.  I did a full inventory of every port number in the two buildings, and tracked down the unlisted ports. I also helped inventory a list of every device in the data center, and track its IP address for a program that keeps track of the status of those devices.  I also create a lot of spreadsheets and Visio to keep track of network related information. 

Did you work other internships? And if so, how’d you get your internships?

EF: I’ve had three internships altogether, and got two of them through the awesome eRecruiting site, njit.experience.com, hosted by NJIT’s Career Center. More students should use that site because employers hire students through it all the time.   Every time I needed a job I just logged in.  It also sends you emails about companies that might be interested in you. For instance, after my sophomore year I had an internship working as a PHP programmer for Verizon Wireless.

Erica Gugliemella. ACM Treasurer

Why did you join ACM and act as treasurer?

EG:  I joined ACM because I wanted to know more about what was going in the world of computing science. A good friend of mine was one of the guys who helped re-start the club at NJIT and told me to check it out.  I decided to act as treasurer of the club last year because I enjoyed being part of it and wanted to have a bigger role. Being on the e-board of the organization has gotten me closer to the CCS faculty and other higher ups and it’s also helped me develop leadership skills.

Is it a fun group?  And what aspects of computing do you find most enjoyable?

EG: We try to make it as fun as possible. This semester has really picked up with the member participation and events going on within the club. Our workshops have had amazing turnout and our meetings are all very light-hearted and entertaining. As for me personally, I am into web development and design aspects of computing. I enjoy building websites both visually and behind the scene. I also have a passion for 3D modeling and both 3D and 2D animation.

Would you encourage other students who like computing to join?  Will the group have a wide appeal to students with various computing interests?

EG: I would definitely encourage students who enjoy computing to join. We have such a range of interests and specialty groups within the group that there is a place for almost anyone. Currently we have special interest groups in web development, graphic design, video game creation, Linux and even a student help desk. The ACM is also essentially the student advisory board for the College of Computing Sciences, and Dean Gehani, along with many of the advisors and teachers, are very happy with how much ACM does with and for the college.

Your background in information technology and computing is paying off for you, too.  You have an internship Channel 11. What’s that like?

EG: This semester I started interning for WPIX, Channel 11 in NYC as their interactive web intern. I’m really a jack of all trades at the company: My jobs include writing stories for the morning news blog, creating graphics, updating current pages and creating new ones for the wpix.com website. And I do anything else that is asked of me. I really enjoy it there and my internship has been extended. It was supposed to end in late November, but I’ll stay on until the end of spring semester! Guess I am doing a good job -- haha :)

Since you have a strong background in IT and computing, do you feel confident that you’ll get a good job in this dire economy?  And what kind of job do you want to get?

EG: I can not say I am confident that I will get a good job right after graduating but I feel that my experience both at NJIT and with ACM have given me the skills to definitely succeed when I do get one. As is, the skills I have acquired have benefited me in my internship to the point where my superiors at Channel 11 have asked me to stay on as their intern for next semester, too. I enjoy working for entertainment companies such as CH. 11, so I hope to continue working for such companies. Eventually I’d like to work for movie companies, doing web development. Websites have become such a big part of entertainment in recent years, so it’s nice to know that entertainment companies now need workers with skill sets like mine!

(By Robert Florida, University Web Services)