Vy Nguyen ’21

Carnegie Mellon University, Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Pittsburgh, PA

This summer, I worked with the Human Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University on developing and building an educational game for high schoolers. The game aims to teach non-routine math, a type of math that requires creativity. As a result, I got to research and read papers about ways to teach students non-routine math, build a prototype for the game, conduct interviews with actual high school students, ask them questions about the prototype, synthesize ideas for game building, and then actually build some of the front end infrastructure towards the end of summer. For me, this was a very interesting experience as I got to learn exactly how foundational research for a new project would work and the steps that are involved in order to build a new product. I also learned the skills of being an interviewer in UX Research, and synthesizing ideas from students’ responses. Throughout my internship, I also grew as an independent researcher. I learned to organize my work and to present my ideas in a more scientific and concise way on a weekly basis.

Beyond the project itself, I was able to attend seminars in which CMU professors talked about topics such as their own research projects, the current state of technology of HCI, and how AI is being used in doing educational research. For me, these were invaluable opportunities for me to learn more about the field outside of academic focus, and the type of impact that people are making with these new technologies.

Moreover, being able to connect closely with my mentors and learn about what they do as Ph.D. students at a large university has also given me many insights into the life of a grad student. This summer has made me understand the joy of doing research and of building a new product from scratch. Since this internship focuses on educational technology, I now comprehend the importance of designing an effective curriculum, as well as doing research on how to teach students and how to help them retain information best. The internship has also sparked my interests not only in Software Engineering, but also UX Design and Research, and educational technology. As I realize computer science research is much broader than what I thought it is, I want to learn more about it by pursuing a master’s degree to gain some more independent research experience. In graduate school I’ll be able to explore more of the fields that I’m interested in before making further decisions about my career choices. I’m also planning to continue working on the same project with CMU during the school year, as it’s still in the early stages, and has a lot of room for development!

Last but not least, I would like to thank Mr. Carlson ’83 and the ’68 Center for giving me the invaluable opportunity to participate in this internship and to learn so much from it!