Developers give advice for aspiring computer science students


Student developers at Rutgers have a place on Busch campus to call home, and it is known as “the Cave.” Except this cave has electricity, tables, chairs and most importantly, computers.

“The greatest environment for really dedicated engineers is ‘the Cave,’” said Billy Lynch, president of the Undergraduate Student Alliance for Computer Science, in reference to Hill Center Room 252. “There are many weekly events there that can help young developers get ahead of the curve.”

Lynch, a software intern at Google, said every Friday afternoon, “the Cave” comes alive.  From 3 to 5 p.m., tutoring services known as “Code Red” are available for students in “Intro to Java and Data Structures”.  At 5 p.m., “Hacker Hour” commences, during which an educational lecture will be given on a topic not typically covered in class.

From there, many students quickly head over to either the Livingston Campus Center or the Busch Campus Cove for the weekly Rutgers Mobile App Development club meet-up.  The meet-up generally features speakers and educational services for aspiring app developers.

“For the upcoming semester, we are excited to be bringing back and inviting new speakers on the topics of user experience design, software as a service, financial tech and growth hacking,” said David Zafrani, co-founder and president of the Rutgers Mobile App Development club.

This coming Sept. 13, the Undergraduate Student Alliance of Computer Scientists and RuMAD are partnering to host a “Tech Meet,” consisting of keynote addresses from prolific tech entrepreneurs as well as two-minute demos from students who have been working on high-tech side projects.

“The first time we tried this event, it was a big success,” said Zafrani, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.  

The event included more than two hours of student demonstrations as well as a keynote address from a University alumnus and founder of HackerLeague.com, Mike Swift.

But computer science is far from just being about fun and games, so University student leaders are sharing their insights to prepare incoming students for the challenges ahead.

“Computer science is widely regarded as one of the most challenging, but rewarding disciplines — students interested in pursuing CS should be mentally and physically prepared,” Zafrani said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer and Information Technology is one of the fastest growing and highest-paying industries.

“It’s difficult to compare computer science to any other industry, said William Langford, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.  “I always recommend to students that think they might be interested in technology to give it a try on interactive coding websites like Codecademy.com, and see if they like it.”

He warned students that waiting for an introductory course to try code-writing for the first time is potentially risky.

“The first few courses are always interesting with regard to churn. [Intro to Java] is really easy as far as computer science goes.  If you find it challenging, as many students do, either get help immediately and prepare to be dedicated for the next four years, or find another major,” Langford said.

But it’s not just about the coursework for students in particular, Langford said.

“Make sure your peripherals are taken care of.  Know where the buildings are, who the professor is, how the buses work,” he said.  “You can’t afford to let the little things get in the way.”

Langford’s final piece of advice to the new students is simple: Try things outside the classroom.

“As far as classes go, don’t be afraid to experiment outside of your assignments,” Lynch said. “Don’t settle for just tackling whatever you’re assigned.”

As an example, Lanford brought up hackathons. Hackathons are programming competitions, typically lasting between 24 and 48 hours, in which engineers are tasked with building projects to meet a set of predetermined criteria.

“Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s impossible to come out of a hackathon without learning something cool.  If anything, you’ll come out with swag,” Langford said, referring to the numerous branded items handed out by hackathon sponsors.

Rutgers University is home to one of the largest university hackathons on the East Coast, HackRU.  This year’s event is set to take place Oct. 12 and 13.

“We’re expecting another great turnout,” Lynch said.  “It’s a testament to just how far students are willing to go to learn more about technology.”

Nis Frome is the co-founder of Hublished.com. He has written on the topics of growth hacking and content marketing for Forbes, The Social Media Monthly and Content Marketing Institute.


By Nis Frome

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