Automation and Integration interns

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Information Technology Services is tapping into new potential through two problem-solving computer science majors who are implementing their time and talents to improve automation and integration.

Seniors Sam Micka and Max Zirbel have worked in Academic Computing Services since January 2012 and they continue to exceed the expectations of those around them, according to their department supervisors.

“Max and Sam are outstanding and I think if we didn’t have them as a resource we would not be making the progress that we’re making to improve our process for installing computers across campus,” Laura Knaapen, director of Academic Computing, said.

Their Information Technology journey started in device support until full time staff member Ryan Van Scyoc realized their talents could be better used elsewhere. Upon the establishment of an automation and integration team, Micka and Zirbel were repositioned.

In general, the automation and integration team on campus is responsible for making improvements to campus hardware and software deployment, which includes the creation of an imaging lab.

“Sam and Max are probably two of the smartest people that I’ve met, so working with them is a very fun experience, great experience. I think that they have a lot of potential in the future and a lot of potential right now,” Van Scyoc said.

Moving these students over to a new branch of Academic Computing Services has allowed them to bring in new ideas and help them reach their fullest potential. Knaapen is very grateful for Van Scyoc pushing to make the automation and integration team happen.

“It’s his knowledge and drive that got us working in that direction and recognizing the skills and talents of Max and Sam and directing them toward what is really going to make an impact on our campus and in their lives as well,” Knaapen said.

Not only have they helped improve automation, but they have also impacted other areas of Academic Computing. Zirbel has completed transforming the surplus process to an online format by taking what he was learning in class and applying it to the program.

“This was a really good chance for me to be the lead on the project and to get the experience to work with a customer and get that work on developing it. It’s just something you don’t get to experience in school. I’m glad I got the opportunity,” Zirbel said.

Other progress has been seen with the site Qnet, which is a site that manages all the campus’s computer imaging information. Micka was extremely proud of the work with this site, which went through major upgrades.

“I started picking up where someone else had left off, so I was proud of this large website when we released the newest version. I was pretty happy to see it go out the door because I’ve been working on it for just months and anticipating its release,” Micka said.

One way that Micka is making an impact outside of automation and integration is through working with other students. He has been tutoring for a couple of years, held engineering teaching assistant positions and is currently the  teaching assistant for programming languages.

“I’d like to help out my fellow students as much as possible and I really enjoy learning and teaching as well as conducting research,” Micka said. “I’ve been trying to get as much done with that while I’m here.”

He’s on the right track to do that by heading out to Montana State University this summer to do research on optimizing cellular tower placement. Also, next fall, he plans on doing more research to prove a theorem about self assembly of tiles.

Zirbel as well has been working on projects outside of automation and integration. He and two other computer science majors, Jordan Mather and Sean Baumgartner, are creating their own software company through the Alta Resources Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Colleen Merrill, director of the Small Business Development Center and executive director of Alta Resources CEI, said Zirbel and his team are leaving a powerful impact by working to develop their own business.

“Max is an entrepreneur with an idea. So many people with ideas never take that initial step of seeking help. Max did. Not only did he reach out to learn more about the center, he also opened his mind to suggestions, went outside of his comfort zone as he asked for feedback, and is willing to do what it takes to move his idea forward,” Merrill said.

With all this impact and new knowledge that Zirbel and Micka have brought to the department, Van Scyoc would love to keep them working at UW Oshkosh, but he knows the future looks bright for both of them beyond UW Oshkosh.

In fact, Zirbel was just accepted into the Coding House, a Silicon Valley software development training experience; he competed against more than 10,000 applicants and was one of 12 accepted. Knaapen said Zirbel’s new opportunity is “further confirmation that he and Micka are among the best and brightest at UW Oshkosh.”

“We’re definitely a unit that is good at listening to ideas and exploring them. I think that’s definitely going to be beneficial for students down the road and I think giving them a practical place to apply their skills definitely prepares them for the future,” Van Scyoc said.

Written by Kristin Stockheimer, Integrated Marketing and Communications STEP student.