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DevX Gives Programmers Real-World Experience

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Computer science is the second most popular major with 56 declared majors in the class of 2016, up from 14 in the class of 2008.

As a part of the growing computer science community, two new clubs, the Carleton Developers Exchange (DevX) and Lovelace are working to promote computer science opportunities at Carleton and to acquaint students with the broader technology world.

DevX students work on computer science projects, such as a printing application that detects the closest printer on campus, a Carleton textbook exchange website, a course review website and an app that tracks a Bluetooth device you can stick to your keys or OneCard.

“We work on projects because they are hands-on, tangible and marketable,” Adam Canady ’16, a DevX board member, said. “The idea is that the most effective way to learn is by doing.”

These projects aim to supplement class- room learning and to create a community of computer science students that is passionate about extracurricular projects, according to Matt Cotter ’15, another DevX board member.

To acquaint students with tech outside Carleton, DevX received $900 from the CSA to send students to HackGT, a hackathon in Georgia first weekend. Hackathons are competitions in which students collaborate in teams to complete projects in a specific timeframe.

“Hackathons are fantastic networking opportunities because they draw many smart, passionate college students and are heavily sponsored by major players in the tech industry,” Cotter said.

Sixth weekend, DevX fielded five teams at the University of Minnesota hackathon. Three teams placed in the top 20, and one team won first place, taking home prizes totaling $3,000 in value.

This past weekend, three students attended YHack, the Yale University hackathon.

“It’s hard to find funding for these events,” Cotter said. “We approached four sources of funding for YHack and were rejected. The funding from the CSA also seems unlikely to continue.”

DevX plans to host Carleton’s own hackathon, CarlHacks, this spring, inviting nearby colleges and representatives from technology companies. They expect it to be very well attended and their biggest event yet.

In addition to hackathons, DevX aims to help students find internships. Common knowledge about job application etiquette does not apply for tech companies. At a recent DevX meeting, Hami Abdi ’17 stood in front of club members and applied for five internships in 15 minutes.

He addressed the companies informally in his cover letters, using “hey” to address CEOs and writing “I used Khan Academy to get into college” in a letter to Khan Academy.

“There is no cookie-cutter way to apply for a tech job,” Ken Schiller ’15, a DevX board member, said. “Small companies pay a lot of attention to culture fit. A lot of work involves pair programming, and interviews often come down to the question of, ‘Does this seem like someone I’d like to work with?’”

To help students get a better sense of the opportunities available in the field, DevX hosted an internship conference in which 12 students gave presentations on their summer experiences.

Because fall is when tech companies recruit students for summer internships, DevX co-hosted a resume workshop yesterday with the computer science department and Lovelace, a new club that supports gender diversity in computing.

Emily Johnston ’15 started Lovelace last winter because “the computer science major was finally large enough for us to need an organized way to bring women in computing together.”

Computer science is a male-dominated field, with only 17 percent women nationwide and 33 percent women in the computer science major at Carleton.

“Computing can be a hostile environment for women, and there are a lot of stereotypes out there about how women can’t write code,” Johnston said. “In general, coding is not portrayed as something women do, and even I was hesitant to try it.”

Lovelace aims to combat stereotypes about women in computing through weekly dinners and discussions and through hosting a mentorship program in Northfield.

The club is also applying for grants to attend conferences.

Recently, students attended the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, which is a conference devoted to the accomplishments of women in computer science.

“My class year is the year the major became huge,” she explained. “Before that, it was easy to informally get together with the, like eight women in the major, but now, we need to maintain a strong computer science community through clubs and events.”

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