Career pathways for HCI graduates

Research opportunities and a technology conference brought two recent Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) graduates overseas for the summer. Carly Karas (M ‘14) and Patricia Tanner (M ‘14) spent July in Australia and Brazil, respectively, as part of their research on augmented reality.

As an undergraduate at SUNY Oswego, Karas combined her interests in the arts and computing and chose to double major in graphic design as well as cognitive science. Once Karas completed her undergraduate degrees, she pursued a master’s degree in HCI as well as the advanced baccalaureate graduate certificate in Integrated Media and Social Networks.

“HCI seemed the logical next step,” said Karas. “ When you look at my undergraduate studies - it's a mix of psychology, design, and computer science, all in the frame of how people use technology and how to make technologies that work for people,” said Karas.

Tanner became interested in pursuing a master’s degree in Human-Computer Interaction during her undergraduate studies in History at another SUNY college. After becoming frustrated with traditional research methods, Tanner was inspired to learn more about developing and improving educational technology.

“I knew that there had to be a way to bring the humanities into the 21st century, and I wanted to help to make it happen,” Tanner said.

The research

Tanner and Karas worked together on an experiment with Project SMART to investigate the effects on children’s comprehension of augmented reality in an educational setting.

The two worked with a sixth grade class where the students were learning about robotics using LEGO WeDo robots. Initially, students were given simple manuals that used completed steps to illustrate how to put the robots together.

Karas and Tanner animated the manual using an augmented reality program by overlaying videos created of themselves assembling the robots on top of the static pictures in the original manual. The animations were designed to play when the student hovered their Project SMART-supplied iPad over the static manual pages.

Students watched videos of how to put the robots together right on top of the static manual instructions and used both to fully understand the process.

After observing the children with the two different manuals, Karas and Tanner confirmed that the augmented reality instructions improved the children’s ability to build the robots.

With the help of HCI program coordinator, Damian Schofield, Tanner' and Karas's research was published by the Journal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice.

Traveling abroad

During the month of July, Karas traveled to the University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia to present the published paper at the Informing Science + IT Education 2014 conference. With support from the Provost’s office, Karas received full funding through a scholarship for professional development from the Association of Computer Machinery-Women in Computing branch as well as a grant from the SUNY Oswego RISE program.

Tanner also traveled abroad this summer as part of her research on augmented reality. Through a scholarship granted by The Global Laboratory program, Tanner continued her research on augmented reality, this time using the technology to increase student engagement with conceptual artwork.

While in Brazil, Tanner also worked with a former mentor on testing a robotic toy developed to aid disabled children with their physical therapy process.

To be interdisciplinary, and to be accepting and willing to collaborate with others outside your field, I believe is the only way to progress and to succeed. I think that this mindset opens up countless opportunities for me job-wise, as I look forward to going outside of my comfort zone and working with all types of people.”
Carly Karas, HCI student

The next step

Since returning from Brazil, Tanner has secured a position at Xerox Research Lab in Webster, New York as a usability specialist. Tanner’s position will include using the usability research and testing methods she developed as an HCI student, to evaluate new software designed by the company. The products Tanner will be testing are developed to support applications in education, business, law and many other digitally under-represented fields.

Karas has recently moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and plans to use her interdisciplinary background to find employment in usability.

“To be interdisciplinary, and to be accepting and willing to collaborate with others outside your field, I believe is the only way to progress and to succeed. I think that this mindset opens up countless opportunities for me job-wise, as I look forward to going outside of my comfort zone and working with all types of people.” Karas said.

The program

The master’s program in human-computer interaction is a 33 credit hour program designed to prepare students to participate in the design and implementation of software and hardware systems that can be used easily, efficiently and effectively.

The interdisciplinary curriculum is comprised of computer science, psychology and graphic design courses. Students in this program often have internships or co-op placements and receive funding through fellowships to work on large scale projects with major businesses such as Welch Allyn, MedTech and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Learn about SUNY Oswego’s Human-Computer Interaction program or request more information.