Featured Spotlight: Danielle Robinson, Class of 2019
(Interviewed Senior year)
- Hometown: Temecula, California
- Favorite Class: Intro to Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE 5)
- Senior Project: Drowsiness Detector – performs facial analysis to determine whether employees are sleeping/tired on the job
- Organizations: Phi Sigma Rho (Engineering Sorority), Big/Little Engineer & Previous – IEEE
- Last Book Read: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson
- Hobbies: Binge watching terrible Netflix originals, traveling, reading, cooking
- Interesting Aside About You: I have a pet fish named Chicken.
- Band / Performer: Rihanna
- TV Show: Mad Men
- Movie: Thor: Ragnarok
- Author: Ken Follet
- Activity: Clash Royale
- Sport: Circuits homework
- Geeky Possession: Fidget spinner from 2016
High School Experience
- Favorite class: Ceramics and yearbook. The first because it allowed me to work with my hands and the second because I always got to meet new people.
- Share what your college search was like: I spent my junior year of high school abroad as an exchange student in France. My high school transcript was pretty weird because I didn’t have a junior year and basically completed my junior/senior classes during my senior year simultaneously through extra periods, classes at the adult school and online classes. I wasn’t sure where I was going to go because I didn’t know what schools would accept me. I tried to reflect my experiences in my essays and UCSB seemed to value my experiences over junior year. I toured schools after I found out where I was accepted and Spring Insight at UCSB sold me on the dream!
Preparation for College
- What prepared you the most to study engineering in college?: Honestly staying organized is pretty huge. That means starting assignments when they are assigned so there’s time to ask TAs questions and you don’t feel rushed. Another thing was knowing how to learn. It’s a pretty good idea to figure out how you learn best before you get to college whether that’s in a group setting, independent study and/or rote memorization.
- Are there any classes that you suggest CE students take before entering UCSB?: Definitely try to take AP Comp Sci if it is offered at your school. It wasn’t offered at mine but I saw how it gave others an advantage by simply having some programming experience (even though most of our classes teach Python/C++, not Java). Taking either AP Lang or Lit (or both) and getting a 5 on the AP test for either of them will exempt you out of the intro Lit courses every freshman has to take. This was huge because it freed up 8 units of space to work on GEs and allowed me to take a lighter course load in future quarters. Finally, taking AP Calc BC in high school is crucial if possible. While you can take it when you arrive at UCSB, learning the material over a year rather than two quarters (20 weeks) can help solidify a foundation for your future engineering courses.
- Any additional experiences that you would like to share with students to help them prepare for college?: Buy a fan for your dorm room! There’s no AC and if it’s hot move-in weekend every store in Goleta/Santa Barbara will be out.
Favorite Things About
- CE Program: The TAs in my upper division CE classes are pretty awesome. Some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. When your board/code isn’t working and they fix it, it’s like magic.
- UCSB: Everyone is friendly and willing to help. The vibe is work hard, play hard which instills a good work life balance.
- Santa Barbara: I like that Isla Vista is a college town, but you can easily get away to downtown SB for another experience. And now we have a Target!!!
Why CE / UCSB?
- Why Computer Engineering?: Honestly, I knew I wanted to go into engineering and computer engineering sounded better than computer science. Once I actually started the program and realized what exactly I had gotten myself into I was grateful that CE goes places where a CS degree doesn’t. I personally feel that anyone can learn to code, but a lot of the things you learn in UCSB’s CE program are pretty difficult to learn on your own (circuit analysis, computer architecture/processors, how to not fry your first breadboard) and I really appreciated the structured environment which truly helped me understand these topics.
- Why UCSB?: I attended Spring Insight which really sold me on the idea that UCSB in general is a much more collaborative school in addition to being a competitive one, which proved to be entirely true. I felt like I would be able to get support from my peers throughout the next four years and learn in a non-toxic environment. I also liked that UCSB’s College of Engineering and CE major are a lot smaller than other schools. My graduating class of CE’s is around 49 people. This really allowed me to get to know most of the other students in the major.
- How did you hear about UCSB's Computer Engineering program?: I didn’t know much about the program before I applied and just checked off the major on the UC app. What really informed me was Spring Insight where there was a specific time set aside for ECE majors. I still remember hearing Forest Brewer talk about the department and the current students (at the time) telling us why UCSB. The 5 year Masters program seemed pretty enticing at the time as well. No regrets!
Advice to students/parents about UCSB and CE
- Advice on applying to UCSB: Students – Get started on your essays as soon as possible! I don’t mean writing them, but brainstorming from your experiences and the things that make you unique and interesting as an individual. The hardest part is the idea. Also study for the SAT/ACT! They are pretty different tests so I recommend taking both to see which one you do better on. If you’re into Reddit, we have a pretty active community on r/UCSantaBarbara where you could ask questions to current students (and some professors are on there as well).
Parents – Try to encourage your student to do their best without stressing them out. In the end it’s their future and while you can try and guide them you can’t make the horse drink. Senior year is a really intense time; they’re facing moving out, handling a lot of new experiences and balancing trying to enjoy life with studying for the ACT/SAT and college apps. Just be there for them in the capacity they need!
- Students and parents often ask, what can you do with a Computer Engineering degree?: SO MUCH. I was talking to a professor in the department last week and he was saying there are way fewer CEs that go into industry and a decent amount of CE jobs. The CS field is pretty oversaturated right now with programmers but either way there are still a lot of options for CEs out there. While I don’t know as much about going into academia, there are always new things happening in our field just waiting to be researched! Salary and job stability are also pretty big incentives.
- Looking back, what do you think you would have wanted your parents to know about UCSB CE? That it’s a great program! UCSB’s CE program will adequately prepare any student to either pursue industry or academia after graduation. Also, the 5 year Masters program is a really great option and you don’t have to decide until the third year. A lot of tech companies heavily recruit from UCSB and a lot of them are based in Santa Barbara. Be prepared that they will love it so much here they will want to stay!
- What are the benefits of a program that is a cross between Computer Science and Electrical Engineering?: Once you get to upper divisions, the CE program allows you to pick which classes you want to take and what you want to specialize in. Personally I realized I wanted to lean towards CS so I took primarily CS classes my entire senior year. I think it’s important to have the foundation the EE side of the program provides so you can truly understand what you’re programming and how it affects the computer.
- What have you learned that has surprised you so far?: How we are soon going to hit a power wall in the world of chips and hit a point where tech just can’t get any better until a new solution appears. This is why batteries are always the worst component in modern tech (like my iPhone for example).
- What has your experience been like taking the Math and Physics core classes? Rough. I didn’t take physics in high school and UCSB has an inverted classroom style where you “learn” at home and ask questions/review in lecture. It didn’t really work for me but I powered through. Campus Learning Assistance Services (CLAS) is a godsend for all core math and physics class at UCSB. Sign up for CLAS!!!!!
- What was / is your most challenging but rewarding course? ECE 10A, the first of the introductory circuit series. I worked the hardest I ever have to understand the course material. Again, CLAS saved me (thanks Alex!). Pulled off a B which I was pretty happy with. I think what helped me but also thwarted me from understanding was having a core study group. While it was great having other people to talk problems over with, I really only studied in groups. I think it would have been better if I spent time going over problems alone trying to figure them out and then took my questions to a group setting.
- Talk about your Capstone (189A/B/C) experience so far: I took the CS capstone and I had a great team and experience. I was the team lead and we were partnered with Aerospace Corp to create a Drowsiness Detector. It essentially was a huge project over two quarters that was mostly independent but we had class/feedback to keep us on track. Highly recommend taking the CS capstone if you are interested in pursuing software development!
- Have you done an internship? I worked at Microsoft in Redmond for two summers; first as an Explorer Intern and then as a SWE Intern.
- What is campus life like for Computer Engineering students? My first two years at UCSB I was on campus all day, mainly because my freshman dorm was over a mile long bike ride away and my schedule. Sophomore year was pretty tough because of the labs and just generally an increased amount of school work. I spent almost every night with other ECE friends working on homework, hanging out and studying. I met a great group of EE’s and CE’s that became my core study group from orientation, going to CLAS and office hours for the core ECE intro to circuits series. Aside from actual school work, I still found plenty of time to get involved in IEEE, bringing Phi Sigma Rho to UCSB as part of the founding class, being a part of Big/Little engineer and volunteering at a local middle school.
- What is the social scene like for CE students? Honestly it’s mostly the same for engineering students as everyone else; we just have to be better at time management.
- Describe your housing experience: First off, go into your freshman housing situation with an open mind. I found my roommate on schools app that UCSB promoted to us. Hindsight is 20/20, but the biggest takeaway is people change and who your future roommate(s) promised they are doesn’t mean that’s who they will be by the end of the year. Compromise is important! I think most of the freshman dorms offer similar experiences, but it’s generally assumed that Anacapa and Santa Cruz are the preferred dorms. I was in Santa Catalina (FT) and it was a great experience anyway. I really didn’t like the food in the dining commons so I signed a lease to move into Isla Vista my sophomore year. Leases start to be signed in December up until around March for the following school year so keep that in mind!
- What are your plans after graduation?: After graduation I’m going to go work for Microsoft in Washington as a SWE. I knew I wanted to go into software rather than embedded (or other core CE aspects) after interning the summer after my sophomore year. I discovered how much I liked SWE and decided to pursue that career path. I’m hoping to eventually make the jump to either PM or management in the future. I want to be the one making the plans!