Tech firms like summer interns: Try before you Buy

An article in last week's Wall Street Journal, Interns Are Latest Target In Battle for Tech Talent, focused on the increased interest in hiring summer interns in the Bay area.

"Bay Area tech companies, already in a fierce fight for full-time hires, are now also battling to woo summer interns. Technology giants like Google Inc. have been expanding their summer-intern programs, while smaller tech companies are ramping up theirs in response—sometimes even luring candidates away from college."

The motivation for companies is simple. Their growth depends on a steady stream of new hires with good skills and work habits. Hiring prospects as summer interns is a "try before you buy" strategy, giving the company lots of information to decide whether to extend an offer for a full-time position after graduation.

Meanwhile, Facebook Inc. plans to hire 625 interns for next summer, up from 550 this year. Google hired 1,000 engineering interns this past summer, up 20% from the previous year. Yolanda Mangolini, Google's director of talent and outreach programs, says the company is still figuring out its target for 2012, based on its overall staffing plan. Google generally extends offers to the majority of its intern class, Ms. Mangolini says. "It is one of the primary ways we find full-time hires."

While the WSJ story focused on Bay area companies, the situation is similar throughout the country and applies not only to companies, but also government agencies. It you are pursuing a computing-related program, now is the time to aggressively explore internship opportunities for the summer.

Graduate students and undergraduates who are currently juniors or seniors planning on going into graduate school will get the most interest, but there will be opportunities for current sophomores and even freshmen as well. If you want start working on lining up a great summer internship, your first stop should be the Career Services Center.

CSEE programs graduate 114 students in December

We congratulate the 114 students who graduated from our programs in December 2011. Three students received Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science, 58 received M.S. degrees in Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Engineering Management and Systems Engineering, and 53 got B.S. degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science. We wish all of our new alumni happiness and success as they moved on to new challenges in 2012. Please stay in touch by keeping your contact information current on the UMBC Alumni Association site.

ACM Queue programming challenge

If you’re at loose ends for the semester break and want to sharpen your programming slils, you might try competing in the ACM Queue Magazine online programming competition. You will program a player that will compete with others in the game of Coercion. The competition opens January 15 and closes at midnight GMT on February 12.

“The game of Coercion takes place on a square field that is divided into regions, which vary by height and slope of the field. Each player controls three movable playing pieces called pushers, using them to push little doughnut-shaped markers around. Players use the markers to claim new territory on the playing field. The player with the most territory at the end of the match wins. The game rules will describe how to control your team, score points, and win. A double elimination tournament follows the coding phase, to determine the top four places.”

You can create your entry in in C++, C#, Java, Python or JavaScript. Preliminary matches will take place during the one-month coding phase will that will let you know how well your player is doing. A final double-elimination competition among all the submitted players will decide whose player is best.

Queue is the ACM’s magazine for practicing software engineers. Written by engineers for engineers, it focuses on the technical problems and challenges that loom ahead, helping readers to sharpen their own thinking and pursue innovative solutions.

Cyber Challenge Hones Students’ Cyber Skills

Tyler Campbell, Nick Ducq, Ryan King, Andrew Nguyen and Tim Spillman walked out of the Baltimore Convention Center elated. Their team, the Sherwood Cyber Warriors, had just won the high school division of the inaugural Maryland Cyber Challenge. Their success netted them each a $5,000 scholarship from the National Security Agency.

The entire experience was rewarding for both the students and their parents, says Steve Weiss, one of the team’s advisers. “Winning first place was the icing on the cake.”

In a conference with over 800 attendees, the excitement over the cyber competition was palpable. With scoreboards changing in real time, onlookers crowded around to see who was in the lead.

Following the competition, held October 21 and 22, eight teams from each division — professional, college and high school — walked away with scholarships and cash prizes. The scholarships for students, put up by the National Security Agency (NSA), totaled more than $84,000.

Members of first place high school and college teams took home $5,000 scholarships each. Members of second place high school and college teams took home $2,000 scholarships. Each member of the first place professional teams won $2,000 and each second place member won $1,000.

First place winners in the college and high school categories were from, respectively, the University of Maryland, College Park and Sherwood High School. Second place winners were Towson University and Poolesville High School. In the professional category Team ICF came in first, with Team Pr3tty coming in second.

The Sherwood Cyber Warriors, four seniors and a junior, are mostly undecided in their future careers, although one does plan to work cybersecurity. Jim Kirk, the team’s senior advisor, says that regardless of the their ultimate career choices, the students learned valuable skills from the competition — such as how to communicate effectively and work as a team.

The Cyber Warriors began practicing for the competition in May, often meeting twice a week. The team developed strategies to pick the low hanging fruit — what hackers go for first. That, says Kirk, includes developing strong passwords and removing unnecessary software from servers.

The challenge for the high school teams, says Rick Forno, Director of UMBC's Graduate Cybersecurity Program and an organizer of the Cyber Challenge, was purely defensive. “They were being attacked and their job was to keep services open.”

The challenge was run using CyberNEXS, a software system developed by SAIC for cybersecurity training and exercises.The system is self-contained and runs both Windows and UNIX systems.

But, more than just the chance to compete, the event gave college and high school students a taste of what cybersecurity work is like. And that, involves more than technical skills say professionals in the field.

“The cyber challenge is especially interesting to me, since all the students participating are passionate about cyber security and the teams will only excel if every member is doing their job,” says Neil Furukawa, vice president of CyberPoint International. “We’re looking for people who can lead, but who can also roll up their sleeves and get the work done.”

Phyllis Villani, Director of Talent acquisition at Northrop Grumman says that to get a job, “networking is key.” Besides honing “soft skills” like communication, Furukawa says, people should never stop their education because cybersecurity is a rapidly evolving field.

Fittingly, education is what the Maryland Cyber Challenge is all about.

Originally posted by Nicole Ruediger at November 18, 2011 1:02 PM


Marie desJardins named ACM Distinguished Member

ACM has recognized CSEE Professor Marie desJardins as a Distinguished Member for her contributions to the field of computing. ACM is the world's largest educational and scientific computing society. Each year it recognizes a handful of its members for significant advances in computing technology that have dramatically influenced progress on a range of human endeavors. This year, Dr. desJardins was one of just 54 computer scientists, educators, and engineers from leading academic and corporate institutions worldwide who were recognized.

Dr. desJardins is well known for her artificial intelligence research, which focuses on planning, learning, and multiagent systems. She leads the large and active MAPLE research group and also works on developing new techniques to improve computer science education.

talk: Oil Spills and Search and Rescue: Key Computational Challenges

UMBC CHMPR Colloquium

Oil Spills and Search and Rescue:
Key Computational Challenges

Dr. C. J. Beegle-Krause
Environmental Research for Decision, Inc.

1:00pm 16 December 2011, ITE 227 325b

Leveraging the research community into societal issues can help save lives and reduce environmental impacts from both natural and anthropogenic disasters. For example, Search and Rescue, oil Spills, and marine debris drift are decision support areas commonly solved with Eulerian-Lagrangian models. These models typically use wind and current fields derived from external circulation models. These problems share many similarities:

  • Use of a “leeway” or “windage” to simulate drift on the water surface or atmospheric transport,
  • Increased leveraging of larger scale physical ocean and atmospheric circulation models, and
  • Predicting geolocation information with sufficient accuracy for detection (e.g. finding the person) or response (booming off the beach),

However, there are some distinct differences and each field has some case types with complexities that remain unanswered by the research community. This presentation will cover some key examples, such as:

  • Mystery spills (reverse drift) – Where did oil come from?
  • Surface collection areas (sensitivity of drift to surface circulation convergence and divergences and shoreline contact);
  • Accuracy required for locating a target – small islands may be missing in implementation of numerical model; and
  • Extensive drift problems – an overdue vessel may have crossed the domains of several small and large-­Ã¢â‚¬Âscale models.

The 21st century vision of numerical modeling includes Lagrangian Coherent Structures (LCS, and application of chaos theory), Social Media (thanks to UMBC), further integration of numerical and geospatial data streams, and more real-­Ã¢â‚¬Âtime information access through handheld computing.

Dr. C.J. Beegle-Krause is President of Environmental Research for Decision, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to three primary missions: transitioning peer reviewed research into Decision Support applications; Education; and Data Rescue. As founder of the nonprofit, she has a strong vision of the Next Generation Trajectory. Her background is in physical oceanography, specializing in modeling chemical transport. She is one of the original developers of the NOAA Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) GNOME trajectory model, and spent five years of her career at NOAA as one of the U.S. lead trajectory forecasters, on-call 24×7 for events around the world. She was called back to NOAA OR&R for the Deepwater Horizon (MC252) oil spill and continues to work on aspects of that incident and future model development.

UMBC team places second in the DARPA Shredder Challenge

Just over a month ago, DARPA announced The Shredder Challenge competition to develop a system to solve puzzles by reassembling images of shredded documents with a $50,000 prize for the winning entry. Yesterday the prize was won by All Your Shreds Are Belong to U.S., a San Francisco-based team that was the first to correctly reconstructed each of the five challenge documents.

UMBC Assistant VP for
Research Don Engel

It's unfortunate that there was no prize for second place, because that honor was won by Schroddon, a two-person effort including UMBC Assistant Vice President for Research Don Engel. While most of the top teams had a handful of software engineers and used commercial crowdsourcing services, Schroddon was a part-time effort by Dr. Engel and his wife, Dr. Marianne Engel.

Both Don and Marianne have Ph.D.s in Physics, but Don also has an undergraduate degree in Computer Science, did graduate work in computational linguistics, and develops software in his spare time for fun. Two of his active software development projects are ShowMe3D, an application for Mac and iOS that can be used to take and view 3D photos, and When2meet, a free web-based tool for finding the best time for a group to meet.

The Shredder Challenge was the latest competition run by DARPA as a low cost way to spur research on new problems. The press release describes it this way.

"The Shredder Challenge represents a preliminary investigation into the area of information security to identify and assess potential capabilities that could be used by war fighters operating in war zones to more quickly obtain valuable information from confiscated, shredded documents and gain a quantitative understanding of potential vulnerabilities inherent to the shredding of sensitive U.S. National security documents."

"Lots of experts were skeptical that a solution could be produced at all let alone within the short time frame,” said Dan Kaufman, director, DARPA Information Innovation Office. “The most effective approaches were not purely computational or crowd-sourced, but used a combination blended with some clever detective work. We are impressed by the ingenuity this type of competition elicits."

Over 9,000 teams registered for the Shredder Challenge and it is quite an achievement for the Engles to have placed second, especially against many much larger teams. If you are interested in seeing what the data is like, you can download it from the DARPA site.

These challenge competitions are becoming more common and are a great way for students to get involved in independent research and maybe win fame and fortune.