Computer science class takes field trip to Launchpad LA, invites speakers

Sarah Novicoff

The Advanced Topics in Computer Science class visited the headquarters of the business incubator Launchpad LA Dec. 5.

The field-trip was part of an ongoing effort by Theo Davis ’13 to explore the other aspects of computer science besides coding.

“I am trying to change how computer science is perceived both inside of computer science and outside,” Davis said. “Inside computer science, the students coding forget about everything else. But outside of computer science, there are too many stereotypes. A lot of them are true, but people outside of programming don’t see the other side.”

While at Launchpad LA, three different engineers spoke to the class about their personal experiences founding companies. Jake Johnson of DivShot ended up at Launchpad after his program won a Crowdstart pitch competition, while Gabe Gottlieb of Yield Metrics was a Microsoft alumnus.  Yield  Metrics increases transparency to the advertising business by releasing advertiser information  to interested parties. John Jersin got his start atGoogle before leaving to found his company Connectifier with another Google alum.
Prior to the field-trip, Launchpad LA Managing Director Sam Teller ’04 visited the class along with Christopher Gooley. Gooley is the co-founder and developer of LessNeglect, a platform that helps companies improve their customer service through consumer tracking.

The two spoke from both an engineering and entrepreneurial perspective regarding computer science, focusing on the need to bridge code with the market. They recommended a multi-step process for development that begins by finding a “pain point” or a service that one believes is lacking in the world. After producing a “quick and dirty prototype,” one should begin to use their coding skills to build the website or app.

“My students learned some direction for specific skills,” Advanced Topics in Computer Science teacher Paula Evans said. “For example, Amazon Web Services has great tools for new companies that are cost effective.  Also, one startup company at LaunchPad LA, DivShot, suggested the Twitter Bootstrap as a great tool for creating the part of a website viewed by the visitor to the site. [The students] seemed to most benefit from meeting people who were creating new tools which help people. They also know that the entrepreneurs at Launchpad LA are always available to our students for guidance.”

Senior Alumni Officer Harry Salamandra has also been involved with the project and will offer internships at Launchpad LA as part of the new internship and job board, New Works. Davis hopes to arrange more field-trips and speakers throughout the year to further her commitment to changing the face of computer science.