Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Being an Engineer in the Performing Arts

Before I came to Penn, I had a lot of hobbies. But the main two were STEM and music. I decided to pursue Chemical Engineering when I came to Penn but I didn’t want to let go of my love for performing. Upon arrival at campus, I joined the Quaker Notes A Cappella group. By finding a balance between engineering and performing, I have been able to truly shape and enjoy my college experience.

As an incoming freshman, many students are warned to not get too involved because college is a big adjustment and it is very easy to get overwhelmed. Personally, I was very hesitant to audition for groups. I figured that I would go through the process and if I got overwhelmed, I would take a step back and put my academics first. What I didn’t realize was how great of a decision joining the all-female group would be.

Quaker Notes has not only given me an outlet to take a break from engineering, but it has also provided me with a supportive group that is there for me throughout all of my college milestones. Most engineering classes are very large and while you will find friends in your classes and in the engineering school in general, you may not see them every day or even every semester. A performing arts group will give you a group of 20-or so friends that you will not only spend time with every week, but will truly get to know and love. There are times in engineering when you can become very stressed or overwhelmed, but when you walk into rehearsal, you can put aside all of your stress and focus on having fun with your friends.

Quaker Notes rehearsal is something I look forward to every week. I have even decided to become the Music Director of the group. I am so glad that while I made sure I wasn’t overwhelmed by joining every group, but by joining that one group, (which for me was a performing arts groups) I have truly enriched my Penn experience.

Emily Peters – CBE, 2018

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

My Experience at PennApps, Fall 2016

Being an engineer at Penn is great for many reasons, but one of my favorite parts of being at Penn is participating in PennApps. PennApps is a bi-annual hackathon, a 48-hour competition in which teams collaborate on programming projects.

At the beginning of the hackathon, my team still hadn’t thought of an idea for our app. One of the suggested topics for the competition was healthcare, so we focused on apps in this category to narrow down our brainstorming. We also took the time to visit each sponsor booth, and one of the sponsors was Nexmo, a communications company that provides a way to send texts and make phone calls using code. This piqued our interest, and ultimately led to the idea for our app.

We decided to build an app for Apple Watch that listens to a user’s pulse to detect cardiac arrest or other life-threatening heart conditions. After the watch detects this, we used the Nexmo code to send texts to emergency contacts and make a call to 911 to receive emergency medical attention. The biggest challenge in building this project was testing and demoing the app because we couldn’t just simulate a cardiac arrest every time we wanted to try out the app. Instead, we changed the Apple Watch code to listen for normal, healthy heartbeats instead of life-threatening conditions, and we tested the app by wearing the watch ourselves.

Building the app was truly a team effort, and our hard work was rewarded when we received a prize for Best Use of the Nexmo API! Each team member received an Amazon Echo as a prize. It was a great experience to work with Nexmo and Apple Watch programming for the first time, and I am excited to participate in PennApps again this semester!

Bethany Davis – CIS, 2017