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The Maze Leading to Applied Computer Science...and NASA

Woodbury wasn’t Kyro Hanna‘s first choice. For Kyro (more formally, Kyrollos), a junior in the Applied Computer Science program (ACS), it was more like his fourth. It did, however, prove to be his best choice.

He had taken a stab at four different majors–Game Development, Game Design, CompSci and Animation–at three different universities and wasn’t satisfied. “The biggest task was finding a university that would fit my needs and that I could see myself actually enjoying,” he says. “The search was becoming tedious, but by then I knew what I was looking for. I wanted to attend a school where I had more of an individual presence rather than just being a face in a crowd.”

Amid his search, by sheer luck his father had been getting gas one day and spied a Woodbury University bumper sticker on the car in front of him. That one thing led to a galaxy of others.

“It was apparent almost immediately that the other institutions I’d considered were just mass producing people in whatever major they were in, with no actual variation in anything,” he says. “In ACS, we’re learning things we’ll be able to expand upon in a professional setting, based on skills necessary for success in the working world.”

“Woodbury is also about a sense of community and teamwork,” he says. “Even in classes that I’m not in and vice versa, my ACS classmates are helping each other, regardless of content. If I could, I’d work with them for the rest of my life. We’re all similar in creed and discipline, even if we don’t have the same interests or knowledge or age range, or experience.”

He describes himself as “a technical STEM student” not so much because of a special affinity for the sciences but “because the field is evolving to encompass my more external endeavors” – e.g., graphic design and animation.

About that galaxy: last summer, Kyro’s persistence paid off, in the form of an internship at JPL NASA. “I’d been applying for two years and finally got it,” he says. “My position started out on a trade study comparing existing and modern technologies for management platforms and communal participatory sites that were internal to JPL. My mentor was a wonderful person who introduced me to people I interviewed with after speaking to them casually, mentioning where I attended school and how I would love to continue working there.”

Sure enough, after the internship, JPL offered to hire him part-time under a special NASA program aimed at accommodating employees who are still attending school.

Kyro’s now working on JPL’s Juno mission, a long-term project undertaken to reveal the story of Jupiter’s formation and evolution. “I’m being mentored in systems engineering as well,” he says, noting that he plans to stay with the project until he graduates, at which point he may become a training producer for the Operations Lab at JPL (a possibility he credits to his past work with augmented reality and virtual reality).

“My main goal is to work passionately and reach as many people as I can through advanced education in a complex field that will define the future,” he says. “I don’t know if NASA is the end goal, but it is sure one hell of a start.”

 

Learn more about the Applied Computer Science program