From Student to Start-up
Thanks to the Los Angeles CleanTech Incubator (LACI), CSUN students like computer information technology major Aidan Anderson are given invaluable opportunities to work for technology start-ups.
A team of CSUN students, including Aidan, gather in the LACI facilities near CSUN every Friday to create an app from scratch for the start-up Project Pals.
LACI is a nonprofit organization that invests in and supports new businesses in clean technology. In fall 2014, LACI partnered with CSUN to generate economic growth in the San Fernando Valley and provide hands-on experience and networking opportunities for students like Aidan.
In addition to Project Pals, Aidan also works as a student assistant at CSUN’s Physical Plant Management (PPM) in system administration, tech support and Web design.
PPM’s information technology consultant and Aidan’s mentor Arthur Grutman recommended Aidan to get involved in Project Pals, after noting his interest in computer-based projects. Aidan met with Miriam Bogler, Project Pals chief executive officer, and started working for the start-up shortly thereafter.
In the end, Aidan is grateful for Arthur’s tip.
“[Project Pals] is an opportunity to see the [Web] product development life cycle, from start to end,” Aidan says. “I’m learning every single layer, from business requirements to production."
The Web-based app acts as a supplemental teacher’s tool for middle and high school students. It emphasizes skills like critical thinking, problem solving and communication by providing a guiding method that challenges students to create academic projects, such as reports, diagrams or presentations. On the app, students can collaborate with one another and teachers can edit, add comments and view student work.
Aidan and his team are using cutting-edge technologies, such as Polymer’s Web Components and WebSockets, to develop the app and make it accessible across multiple Web browsers. Once they finish, they can begin working with CSUN’s Michael D. Eisner College of Education to pilot the app in several middle and high schools.
After working with Project Pals for more than six months, he feels fortunate. As he prepares to graduate in spring 2015, he hopes his experience with LACI and Project Pals will help him enter the technology job market with valuable real-world skills.
“Computer science [professionals] think what [they] know will get them a job,” Aidan says. “But [I realize now how] networking is also important.”
For more information about Project Pals and LACI, visit the LACI@CSUN website. Students interested in working on Project Pals may fill out a contact form on the Project Pals website.