Combining psych & comp sci for a degree that’s 100% me

Guest post by Jasmine Yadeta

If you asked me in high school to turn on a computer for you, it would likely take me at least 5 minutes, and I would somehow manage to get a light blinking and hopefully, eventually, turn it on. Now I am in my final year of a Psychology and Computer Science BSc with a minor in Business.

I never thought the experiences I have had at UVic would shape my career—and my life—as much as they have.

One of my most defining experiences began when I started working with Dr. Jim Tanaka in my second year. After taking only 2 computer science classes, he hired me on as a part-time programmer for an amazing project called Let’s Face It! Scrapbook.

Let’s Face It! Scrapbook was primarily developed as an educational tool for children on the Autism Spectrum to develop their facial recognition and emotion comprehension skills.

At this point in my degree, I had just recently decided to change program from a Psychology BA to a combined Computer Science and Psychology BSc. I’d taken some beginner and intermediate level Java classes, and that’s it! I was not particularly tech savvy in high school, and my first introduction to programming and computer science were the courses I took at UVic.

I had the opportunity to work on an iPad application, which required a skill set that I had not yet acquired, so I took it upon myself to get up to speed. At that point, I had not taken or had any experience in coding applications.

I began watching Stanford Tutorials on mobile application development and programming in Objective-C. They were free on iTunes University, and I began watching them religiously. Some of the concepts were things I had learned in some of my other programming classes. Many of the lessons on iTunesU gave me context within the particular environment and as well I got to see some of the topics I was learning about in my classes in action.

With my limited coding background, there was a lot catching up for me to do, and so the first two months on the project consisted of me reading and reviewing code. Asking questions about why things were done in certain places, and commenting code — lots of comments.

Our work hours between the programmers was fairly self-directed and fit well with my studies, as I could work on this when I had time.

All the local programmers met every Saturday to check in, distribute work, and have a work session where we are able to bounce ideas off of each other, and ask questions as they come up.

There was a considerable amount of creative freedom on the project and we would meet with Dr. Tanaka weekly to ensure we had all the necessary features and encapsulated the vision of the project.

I had the opportunity to design and execute a few levels in our main game Splash within the app. I designed the game mechanics of the level, how points would be accumulated, the area of play and more!

I was learning algorithmic concepts in my computer science courses, and as I was developing and designing these game levels, I got to apply the concepts to a real life project as I was learning them. Although I was not taking any classes that dealt in the same programming language, all of the concepts are applicable across languages and can be applied vastly.

I was on the project for a total of two years, and I got to truly grow as a developer with the project. I had to meet deadlines, I had to learn things quickly, and I had to learn how to ask for help and extra time when things didn’t pan out as expected.

I acquired real life skills that were supplemental to my degree that have developed me into a well-rounded, real-world ready adult. I could not have gotten a better opportunity to realize my interests and skill set.

I went through a considerable amount of degree exploration before arriving with my final degree. I started with a BA in Psychology, and progressed to the combined Computer Science and Psychology degree after this opportunity gave me a chance to explore my interests and widen my portfolio.

Now, in my final semester of what my degree which is just a conglomeration of all my interests into one holistic degree that is 100% me.

Our director, Dr. Jim Tanaka received a REACH Award from the University of Victoria. His award was for Excellence in Knowledge Mobilization, and his excellence in community engagement as Centre for Autism Research Technology and Education (CARTE ) co-founder and director. He invited “LFI!” app creators from CARTE to the ceremony. 

Congratulations Dr. Tanaka! Congratulations CARTE!

Here are the details:

From left to right: Elliott McSmythurs, Jasmine Yadeta, Jim Tanaka, Jon Bowen, Joseph Feliciano, José Barrios. 

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