From Robots to Big Data—UNI STEM programs support deep understandings of computer science

Willie Brown

This past summer, high school freshman Willie Brown learned how computer programmers do more than just build games and program toys while working directly with a UNI faculty member to find a way computer science could allow them to make new discoveries.

As part of the Research & Engineering Apprentice Program (REAP), Brown was partnered with Andrew Stollenwerk, associate professor in UNI's Department of Physics. The REAP program supports talented high school students, which are typically from groups historically underserved in STEM, and partners them with professors in various academic fields.

Stollenwerk and Brown explored ways to use METALAB software to organize vast amounts of data. Stollenwerk’s work involves shooting electrons through thin gold films on semiconductors to measure energy changes to understand how impurities impact quality. These tests create a massive amount of data. The two invented a way to automate the MATLAB software to process 100 points of data at once. They continued and discovered that 100 points still isn't enough, but their method could be expanded to automatically process larger and larger sets to achieve the correct level of detail.

Brown and Stollenwerk's research poster is available in the UNI Scholarworks REAP Apprentice Collection. To learn more about this program and apply for summer 2019 REAP at: