Guest post from Michael Preston, Ed.D, Executive Director of the Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities
I recently visited the Technology Computer Lab at Florida International University. I traveled to FIU for the annual VIP School of Computing and Information Sciences Senior Project (SCIS) Showcase. While waiting for the showcase to start, I tried on a pair Virtual Reality goggles. I tried to pick up a box and place it on a table using code. It wasn’t doing very well. However, help eventually arrived, i.e. a bright 19 year old computer science student who quickly taught me the basics of computer programming. I think now is a good time to also mention; I am a 44 year old man who majored in English Literature and graduated from college in 1995. I don’t know the first thing about computer programming, but that is the point of FIU’s Annual VIP & SCIS Senior Project Showcase. Students make the impossible, possible, and they explain it effortlessly to people like me and potential employers.
It was an honor to attend and serve as a judge during FIU’s Fall VIP SCIS Senior Project Showcase. Each semester, led Dr. Masoud Sadjadi , the senior project showcase allows over 100 students to work in teams to create practical solutions to pressing problems. This semester projects ranged from innovative applications aimed at getting people engaged to programming shortcuts. There were also a VR program designed to teach coding. The senior projects are impressive. Throughout the showcase students were enthusiastic about what they had learned to date and created for the showcase. They were also optimistic about their prospects in the job market. “I know I am on the right path because I am only a junior and I already have a few firms recruiting me. I started off like many of my fellow students with a desire to create video games. However, I quickly found out that there is so much more to coding and design. There is literally nothing I cannot create using code” said Giovanni, a student in the showcase. In general, the senior projects are not theoretical. In fact, a team exhibited a new app that will allow Florida Reach clients to communicate and receive guidance from their advisors and mentors in real time over a secure network. The team worked to simplify and streamline support services for students in foster care at FIU. This real world use case is just one example from the fall showcase.
According to the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2030 Jobs report there will be an abundance of unfilled STEM jobs by 2030. In fact, today in Florida there are currently 20,982 open computing jobs (3.7x the state average demand rate). “I am excited because I know for every student here, there will be like 3 to 5 offers by or before graduation. I wish we had even more students in the showcase because the need for skilled candidates is so great” said Dr. Sadjadi.
In addition to his work in the classroom, the annual senior design showcase, several research projects, Sadjadi is also a key contributor to the College to Career Network Improvement Community sponsored by the Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities and funded by the Helmsley Charitable Trust. Faculty and administrators from FIU, UCF, USF are working to produce more career ready students in STEM fields of study. This collaborative initiative is a proactive response for the state’s demand for skilled workers in areas of strategic importance.
One of the most dynamic aspects of the showcase was the tremendous diversity in the room which aligns to the Helmsley Charitable Trust educational framework which aims make programs more accessible to underrepresented populations. As the showcase came to a close and I took off the VR goggles and I was humbled by what I saw. I left the showcase thrilled about what comes next for these students. Technology is the future, and FIU is creating tech experts right here in the Sunshine State.