29 November 2011
The answer is invariably something like, "They're super smart but need a lot of training."
This perhaps is an age-old refrain, but it takes on new resonance for an age in which companies increasingly run leaner and have less time to train and mentor new hires (this is a huge problem, but something we can take up later).
Part of this problem, I think, is being addressed within university and even high school programs where the maker/hacker phenomenon is being used to give students hands-on experience building electronics and working in teams to achieve their goals.
At New York Institute of Technology, a group of students got to take this approach to a higher level as part of a major competition to design a green structure for the deck of the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier, which now serves as a floating museum at Manhattan's Pier 86.
A team of students was assembled spanning six departments at NYIT's Old Westbury campus (actually multiple teams started out competing against each other, amid much intrigue and espionage, according to graduate engineering student Luke Ferland, a team lead).
Team Alphabet Soup was one of six NYIT internal finalists that went on to compete in the Intrepid competition. Lo and behold, Alphabet Soup won the overall competition and shared the $3,000 prize.
It's a good story, for sure, but it also shows, according to team member Zach Sanzo, how budding technologists can get their fingernails dirty. "It's a great real-world application to learn in school because when you go out into the field, this is something that you could be working on..but if you don't know the steps and haven't done the steps before, you're going to be so overwhelmed," Sanzo said. Coming out of school with that under their belt can be an invaluable career booster.
Ferland and Sanzo talk about the project, how it evolved, what they learned and how they dealt with spies: