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Summer 2013 Internships

Over the summer of 2013, Montana Tech computer science and software engineering students interned at a wide variey of companies, from Microsoft in Seattle, to Echostar in Colorado, and to PPL Electrical Utilities in Pennsylvania. If a student enrolls in the Internship course, we asked them to share their internship experiences on the Computer Science Department website. Make sure to read the entire article and return for additional internships as students submit their reports.  Articles about Jon Wareham, Jeff Hall, PJ Neary, Brian Knopp, Haythem Memmi, Ben Butcher, Reid Alford, Cade Foster, and Clint Hillerman are below.

JonGroundZeroJon Wareham interned at PPL Electrical Utilites corporate headquarters in Allentown, Pennsylvania. During the internship, he worked with the dot net framework to utilize data base design, process monitoring, and application development. The applications Jon developed were used by company day traders to predict the future prices of energy in certain regions of the United States and improve profit margins when buying and selling energy shares. Jon had the opportunity to work with the Team Foundation Server feature of Visual Studio, which provided version control for him and his coworkers when working on the same project. The primary languages he worked with were C#, WPF, and SQL using stored procedures.

In addition to the programming experience, Jon and the other 120 PPL interns were invited to dozens of "networking events" where the interns could talk with corporate executives and learn more about every aspect of the company and the global power industry it operates in. Each intern was tasked with interviewing at least 2 full time employees in one of the 5 different company branches outside of their own. Jon interviewed the President of Energy Supply and PPL Generation, the President of PPL Renewable Energy, and the Chief Information Officer among others.

The internship became available to Jon after interning for the Butte branch of PPL in the summer of 2012. Jon lived in the Muhlenberg Village in 2013, which is a set of dormitories that were made available to PPL interns while the Muhlenberg College students were away for the summer. The Muhlenberg campus featured two sand filled volleyball courts where Jon and his neighbors spent many of their early evenings. Being his first time to the eastern side of the United States, Jon also took the opportunity to travel to New York City to visit the Statue of Liberty, Times Square(picture below), and the new Ground Zero museum (picture above).

Jon made a short video about PPL with his team during the internship - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmWII_B8MTo

Below, Jon circled in red towards the left of center.

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EchoStarJeff Hall, a senior in Computer Science, just completed his summer internship at Echostar Corporation in Englewood, Colorado. Echostar Corporation is the fourth largest satellite company in the world and handles all of the hardware and software engineering for Dish Network. Jeff worked in the data mining/ big data department of Dish network, where large amounts of data coming from every Dish set top television box in the world is stored. Data mining involves writing code to organize, analyze, and report the data in a meaningful manner. These reports contain information for making future business decisions based on how past products perform and how the end users operate them.

In addition to writing data mining scripts, Jeff also coached newer interns with their own data-mining projects. Their work analyzed different set top box types reporting to satellites everyday and different ways end-users traversed the various menu screens and modes while watching TV. Most of the data mining scripts were written in Perl with the MySQL database queries, where efficiency is crucial because millions of records are being retrieved, processed and stored. The reports were then aggregated into a web-based retrieval tool that was accessible company wide. During his time at Echostar, Jeff gained valuable experience in software engineering practices, algorithm analysis and efficiency, and maintaining the behind-the-scenes data engine that drives the company.


 pj-echostar1PJ Neary, a CS senior, also had an internship with EchoStar in Denver. PJ's summer long project was to incorporate a software development process tracking system into an open source bug-tracking website. He worked with previous Montana tech graduates on this project and attained experience in web design fundamentals, agile software development process, user interface design, and gathering customer requirements. Along with this career experience, PJ learned Perl, MySQL, JavaScript, and HTML 5. This project was very rewarding to him because he was able to change the way software development is done at EchoStar.

Not only did PJ gain experience in the work place, he had a blast doing it! EchoStar has an awesome intern program. They took all the interns to events such as Colorado Rockies baseball games, Budweiser tours, and hiking trips. Not only that, EchoStar purchased food and beverages at the Rockies game and purchased nice backpacks and t-shirts for the hike. For housing, they put interns up in a very nice extended stay hotel with daily maid service. EchoStar's location in Denver is great because there is just so much to do in the area! PJ highly recommends this company to anyone who is looking for an internship.


Brian D. Knopp, currently a senior in computer science, fulfilled his internship requirement with the Center for Discrete Mathematics & Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. DIMACS, which is a research institution formed by the collaboration of Rutgers, Princeton, AT&T, and other companies, is housed on the Rutgers campus in Piscataway, New Jersey. During his employment as a visiting researcher, Brian investigated the problem of improving the performance of automated text message (microtext) classification. Increasing the performance in microtext classification is highly important for disaster response efforts, where classification accuracy and precision are vital. Later in the project, some important and fundamental discoveries were made which offer to shed light on the applicability of so-called higher-order classification methods. Through their research efforts, Brian and his project team (consisting of one Rutgers professor and one post-doctoral researcher) submitted their research results for publication at the SIAM SDM'14. conference.

During his summer assistantship, Brian gained additional experience in writing software to interface with existing systems for academic purposes. Programming languages that his team utilized include Java, MATLAB, and R. Early in the project, Brian authored a customizable and extensible text preprocessing and character n-gram extraction suite, which facilitated increased productivity in the latter stages of the work. Although not strictly necessary for a project of this scope, Brian employed software engineering practices when designing and implementing the programs used during the assistantship. In addition to the usage of several programming languages, Brian briefly utilised high-performance computing resources for data-intensive operations. Finally, Brian also acquired valuable insight into structuring and planning research projects, which are critical for his chosen career as an academic researcher. He delivered weekly progress reports, created short- and long-term plans, and employed formal methodologies to test the experimental results.

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An assistantship at DIMACS provided Brian (pictured above, far right) with the opportunity to learn about the current research work being performed in discrete mathematics. Weekly seminars offered the chance to discuss research with Rutgers faculty and AT&T personnel, as well as network with fellow research assistants. On the behalf of his project mentor, Brian was invited to weekly homeland security group meetings of the Command, Control, and Interoperability Center for Advanced Data Analysis (CCICADA). The REU students were able to report their research progress to the body of CCICADA researchers, who provided valuable feedback. Extracurricular activities supported by the project included a tour of the AT&T Shannon Laboratory and a weekend trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The university provided convenient on-campus housing and dedicated office space. Brian discovered the DIMACS REU through independent searches for undergraduate assistantships.


Haythem Memmi, a junior in Computer Science, was recruited by Texas State University to perform research in their Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) in New Paradigms of Information Retrieval from Diverse Data. He worked on the Personal Process Management project, a collaborative project between Texas State and the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Throughout his internship, Haythem was the main contributor to the project, designing the architecture of the system, conducting meetings with the contributors in Australia, performing software development and guiding an undergraduate student who assisted in the development.

During his work at Texas State, Haythem used several software and technologies including Apache TomCat, JavaServer Pages, Java, mySQL, and XML. Haythem was mentored by Dr. Anne Ngu, and he delivered several presentations to the Computer Science faculty, industry board, and the interns at Texas State. The photo below shows Haythem during one of his presentations.

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Interns at Texas State had the opportunity to attend several lectures in Data Mining and Information Retrieval, and they went on three industry visits to Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), IBM, and INTEL. Above is a group photo at Intel's office in Austin (Haythem is in the Center with the gray T-shirt).

At the end of the internship, Haythem had designed a robust system that allows users to share personal experiences using an Android app. The project impressed several people including the University of North Texas, which decided to sponsor Haythem to present his research at Grace Hopper Conference in October 2013. Shortly after Grace Hopper conference, he and the other researchers submitted a paper about the project to the International Conference on Database Systems for Advanced Applications.


Ben Butcher, a Computer Science junior, spent the summer and much of the fall semester interning at the National Center for Health Care Informatics (NCHCI) in Butte. NCHCI is currently working on building a next generation battlefield medical training simulation for Pararescue Jumpers (PJs). These Air Force personnel specialize in the recovery and medical treatment of casualties in challenging environments. Ben worked with an important piece of technology that would be a part of the training simulation; a patient simulator mannequin called Caesar, which would be one of four patients the PJs would have to treat during the simulation. Caesar is a rugged, realistic mannequin with a modeled physiology. A variety of medical procedures can be performed on it, and in many cases these interventions are detected and the mannequin’s modeled physiology changed accordingly.

Ben helped create a script detailing Caesar’s injuries and physiological conditions that would run on the mannequin during the simulation. In addition, Ben wrote a software module in C using Caesar’s Source Development Kit (SDK) that allowed the mannequin to be controlled through a simulation execution framework. The internship experience culminated in a run of the simulation with real PJs that acted as a demonstration to the Air Force of the current capabilities of the simulation. During his internship Ben gained valuable experience working on a complex research and development effort and learned about trauma medical care and simulation environments.

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Reid Alford, a Software Engineering Senior, also spent the summer and much of the fall semester interning at the National Center for Health Care Informatics (NCHCI) in Butte. Reid's internship included working with a variety of hardware units to control the lighting, sound, peripherals and tracking physiological conditions of simulated casualties in a simulated environment. He helped create a series of Python scripts to control peripherals via Insteon LampLinc modules. The Python scripts were then connected to the simulation framework where other events in the simulation can call them.

Using C++ Umbra High Level Architecture, Reid also helped create modules that interfaced with a HumMod Physiology solver to track degrading physiology conditions of injured casualties. In the simulated environment, casualties begin with normal physiology conditions. Dynamic events are then added to the environment. Data is collected, weighted and scored to determine when a casualty is injured. The data influences how the casualties behave on the screen and off the screen. Behaviors include clutching their gut, lying down, crawling, running, screaming, and yelling for help. When a casualty leaves the screen, live patient actors become those casualties in the real world environment so that the Pararescue Jumpers in-training can administer aid.

Reid gained experience in a research and development environment and learned about high level architecture programming during his internship.


cadeCade Foster, who will be graduating this May with a degree in Software Engineering, spent his summer interning at the Montana Department of Transportation (MDoT) in Helena. He was a Software Engineering Intern for the Equipment Bureau. Cade was hired to test new software which was to be impelemented gradually over the course of the summer and ensure that it was compatible with the MDoT's business rules. The software was an upgraded version of an outdated Electronic Vehicle Management System (seen pictured on the right). However, the third party company who was to provide the software was a little behind in getting the software to the MDoT, which postponed the testing until after Cade left. Instead, Cade performed a plethora of odd jobs, which included the following: help develop tests for the software once it is provided; help write, edit, design, and publish a Preventative Maintenance manual and a condensed, laminated version of the manual; help reconfigure the current preventative maintenance schedule for state vehicles; and generat/publish reports for various state agencies regarding vehicle usage. One of his biggest assignments was to fix a five month ongoing problem with a current software system by investigating the nature of the problem, tracking down specific instances of the problem, researching the history of attempted fixes to the problem, communicating with the software system provider, and presenting his findings to his manager and the software provider. He then implemented the solution to the problem and successfully resolved all of the issues.

Cade is from Helena and his father works at the MDoT as a programmer and database administrator, which is how he learned about this internship. He and his family (his wife Caroline, his two year old daughter Peytan, and his one year old son, Reed) lived with his wife's sister for most of the summer until she decided to rent out her house. At that point, Caroline and the kids moved back to Butte, and Cade finished the internship by living with his parents for a few weeks. He also worked as an umpire for an adult slow pitch softball league. As a former Helena native Cade enjoyed visiting his roots and his family, including his parents and in-laws who all live in Helena.


hillerman1Clint Hillerman interned at Copper Environmental Consulting, a rapidly growing consulting company based in Anaconda, Montana. Copper Environmental Consulting manages all aspects of water treatment plants, both locally and nationally. They manage local plants such as the Horseshoe Bend water treatment plant located in Butte, and the Warm Spring Water Treatment plant located just off the interstate near Warm Springs.

While working at Copper Environmental, Clint worked with several new languages and learned how to use powerful software such as Microsoft Report Builder and Microsoft Reporting Services. His main focus was creating reports that would be sent out to clients automatically via an SMTP server. These reports contained valuable information about the water treatment plants, such as turbidity and arsenic levels for the last year. Clint worked with transact SQL and created complicated SQL statements and stored procedures to generate these reports. Clint also maintained the company’s website, copperenv.com, and built custom queries tools for clients to securely access files and data online. This required Clint to write dynamic queries based upon user input and to work with various programming languages such as, VB.net, ASPX.net, PHP, JavaScipt, and Transact SQL.hillerman2

The query tool itself is confidential, but here is a picture that shows the overall color scheme and style of the site.

Overall, Clint's time at Copper taught him valuable lessons. He worked in groups to accomplish time sensitive tasks and developed products used both by clients and internally. This was Clint's first time working in an office environment, so tasks such as attending meetings, contacting other companies with questions, and interacting with coworkers were all new and exciting experiences.