UTEP Computer Science Students Participate in Google Tech Exchange
Last Updated on April 28, 2020 at 12:00 AM
Originally published April 28, 2020
By Darlene Barajas
Computer science students from The University of Texas at El Paso are part of a contingent from Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities that are working remotely during the final month of Google’s Tech Exchange program.
The UTEP students’ participation — which began at the tech giant’s main campus in Mountain View, California, thanks to a $213,000 grant from Google — shifted to a virtual/remote setting in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. Students currently attend classes, conduct mock interviews, attend office hours, and work on group projects through video chat. The last day of the program is May 4, 2020.
Google Tech Exchange is collaborative effort with the Computing Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (CAHSI), a National Science Foundation (NSF) national INCLUDES alliance, and Howard University. As an industry-academic partnership, Tech Exchange’s mission is to unlock opportunities in the tech industry through an immersive computer science experience for students and selected faculty from participating institutions. Participants spend a semester at Google in Silicon Valley taking computer science courses with cutting-edge content. This year’s program, however, was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
At UTEP, the effort is stewarded by Ann Q. Gates, Ph.D., AT&T Distinguished Professor in the Department of Computer Science and executive director of CAHSI. Participating in the cohort are students from UTEP; New Mexico State University; California State University, Dominguez Hills; and the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez. Diego Aguirre, Ph.D., assistant professor of practice at UTEP, is participating in the program and working with Google to teach a course in machine learning and advanced data structures.
“This year’s Tech Exchange program builds upon last year’s program,” Gates said. “The 2018-19 graduates described how inspiring their experience was – in particular, the community building and learning experiences. The performance of our students in a highly competitive program such as Tech Exchange reinforces what we know already, and that is the quality of our students and the quality of our computer science program.”
Kevin Ramirez, a junior computer science major, said the program fosters a community that is supportive in helping students through their classes and developing skills that will impact their future careers.
“I feel that the program provided me a unique opportunity to expand my views in many ways by learning from inspiring students selected across the country, as well as from software engineers with years of experience in the industry,” Ramirez said. “The program provides many opportunities to work with each other in challenging projects that ultimately build stronger connections than what typically happens in a normal classroom. My favorite part of the program is being able to see the same bright and dedicated students every day with different backgrounds that is evident in their working style. Being surrounded by so many remarkable students is inspiring and is a source of motivation to continue working hard as we all share the desire to do great things in the future.”
For Ana Luisa Mata, the Tech Exchange program provides an opportunity to bolster Latina representation in Silicon Valley, even if it is virtually.
“It has granted me a space to learn and grow incredibly fast,” said Mata, a junior computer science major. “The TechX environment brings out the best in students through challenging and highly collaborative work. I am extremely thankful to be surrounded by such talented and dedicated students and professors.”
Participating in the Tech Exchange program widened sophomore Jose Rodriguez’s view of computer science.
“I have been able to interact and work alongside high performance CAHSI students across the country from multiple different backgrounds, which has helped me grow as a person and further develop my technical skills,” Rodriguez said.
“We are thrilled to welcome UTEP students and professor Diego Aguirre onto the Google campus this year,” said Mary Jo Madda, a Googler and the current Tech Exchange program manager. “As part of the experience, these students are taking classes from Google instructors and HBCU/HSI faculty, in topics ranging from software development to product management. And so far, each of the UTEP students have demonstrated great prowess and problem-solving skills in their classes and project work.”To learn more about UTEP computer science programs, visit utep.edu/cs/.