College Students in awe of USA Tech Giants

May 06, 2014 at 4:09 PM

There is no other way to describe the journey to the USA for the Computer Science students other than the experience of a lifetime. Two years of careful planning, long distance Skype calls, a ‘million’ emails and it finally all came together into a successful trip visiting up and coming high-tech businesses in San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Los Angeles.

Thirty six enthusiastic, yet apprehensive, senior school students, along with five support staff, touched down in San Francisco, the home of some of the most technologically advanced companies in the world. The group were able to take advantage of their weekend arrival to visit some of the landmarks of this vibrant city. First up was a tour of the Twin Peaks, Golden Gate Park, the Cliff House and the Golden Gate Bridge before they headed to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and its spectacular views for a seafood dinner. Pier 33 on the waterfront and the ferry cruise out to Alcatraz Island was a must-see, as was the California Academy of Sciences - a small slice of heaven for science buffs.

Launching into the new week, the group set off to two educational museums in the Santa Clara region. At the Intel Museum they explored the complex world of silicon technology that helps us understand how Intel has changed the world we live, work and play in. The students also had a hands on and interactive experience in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose. The first Tuesday took them to their first technology company, Pivotal Labs, who have been at the forefront of agile software development for more than two decades. The students met with one of the Team Leaders and the Director of the company, who offered sage advice on planning their educational choices to work in this field.

The students were led through what NASA is currently involved in and how they are advancing life right here on earth, as well as in outer space, at NASA’s Ames Research Centre. They then headed off to the Computer History Museum where they explored the 2,000 year history of computers. Finishing off at the Palo Alto Apple Store, the students participated in an hour and a half workshop with trained Apple Consultants discussing the future of where educational Apps and hardware are going.

The end of the week in Silicon Valley brought headquarter visits to Cisco Systems and LinkedIn where the students talked with some of the brightest minds in the field, including fellow Kiwis, about career paths and how to be part of the future of computer science. It was then on to visit two very different and ambitious companies. Twilio, a cloud-based communications company, and Wearable World, a collaborative software development house that specialises in technology that can be worn.

For the second leg of the journey, the group travelled south to Los Angeles which brought a unique and patriotic experience for the students. They were able to join the ANZAC Commemorative Service attended by the Consular Generals of New Zealand, Australia, Canada, France and Germany at the National Cemetery in Westwood. At the completion of the service they were then invited to attend a function at the New Zealand Consular General’s House.

In Santa Monica, the group met with the Orion Health CEO, a global independently owned eHealth software company to hear an inspirational and informative presentation about how this Kiwi start-up company has exapanded to be a market leader in the USA. 

The final educational stops of the tour were to The University of South California (USC) - School of Cinematic Arts where the students were given a lecture on all of the research initiatives currently being undertaken in Gaming, Animation and Apps development. Then on at the California Science Centre, the students got to observe the Space Shuttle Endeavour in its final resting place after it was decommissioned in 2011.

The study tour was an amazing and rare opportunity for the Computer Science students to expand their networks and knowledge through their visits with companies, founders and CEOs of successful enterprises in the life sciences, software, information technology, advanced materials and new energy fields.

Thank you to Mr Dominic Mooney, who spearheaded bringing the trip to fruition and to the staff, parents and contributors who made the trip possible and such a resounding success.



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