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Student Member Spotlight

Katherine Martinez, featured in the May issue of ISA Insights.

Katherine Martinez Q & A

Q: Give us a brief introduction of yourself, your educational background, and your current involvement with ISA.

KM: My name is Katherine Martinez. I am currently a senior in the Computer Engineering Technology Program at the University of Houston. I was born in El Salvador and moved to the US almost eight years ago. I am the first generation in my family to go to college, because both my parents highly value education. Even though they did not have the opportunity to attend college, they always pushed me to get a college degree. Currently, I serve as the Vice President of the ISA Student Section at the University of Houston. I have been involved with UH-ISA since last June and served as Secretary until I was elected as Vice-President last December.

Q: How long have you been a member of ISA and how has ISA benefited your college career?

KM: I joined ISA in June 2013 and helped the professor that leads our ISA Student Section, Xiaojing Yuan, Ph.D., and a group of students, who also aspire an automation career, to revitalize the UH-ISA student chapter. I was elected Secretary and then began organizing various activities for the UH-ISA section, including setting up our regular monthly meetings, identifying volunteering opportunities, and gathering volunteers for such programs. I feel that being part of ISA has really helped my college career because it has broadened my understanding of how important it is for college students to get involved with professional organizations like ISA, and it made me realize how rewarding it is to reach out to the community and give back. It also made me more focused on my academic study and more determined to pursue an automation career. The biggest lesson I learned from automation professionals through the Houston ISA chapter is the importance of networking. As an introverted person it has always been hard for me to approach people. However, as an officer of UH-ISA, I learned to muster my courage and force myself to break through the shell and communicate my ideas clearly. I have been serving as a mentor for young kids from underprivileged communities by participating in different robotics competitions. Every time I help these kids put together their robots and I see their excitement, I not only feel happy for them but I also regain some of my enthusiasm towards automation.

Q: Please tell us about your ISA Student Section’s involvement with the Cornell Cup USA, presented by Intel.

KM: Because of our common dream of pursuing an automation career, my team and I were looking for a project that can apply what we have learned into a technical solution and a prototype with the potential to help people. Three of our UH– ISA student chapter officers, including me, current president Corey Miles, and former treasurer Falon Dostal are leading the project. In our senior project class in the computer engineering program, we have the tradition of submitting our project idea to the prestigious Cornell Cup, since its inauguration competition in 2012. Our team is one of the 34 teams selected as finalists based on ideas submitted from engineering and technology programs across the nation. Our project is, in essence, developing technology that can automatically monitor basic motion elements so that action can be taken to improve them. The technology can be used in various sports to help athletes and sportsmen reach their full potential, or in physical therapy to help patients regain their motion faster and better. In our project, we chose to demonstrate the technology using basketball free shooting. Because of the support of local Houston ISA members, our team’s blog ranked fourth in the first round of voting for the media award (which is a new award category)by automating simple movements through calculations and the physics behind shooting a basketball. Being a part of ISA helped us become familiar with many companies that share the same ideals, and that are willing to help students like us become successful. We are hoping to gain more momentum and support for the second round of voting from all the ISA members! Vote for Synergetech

Q: How did your team come up with this innovative idea?

KM: Our Computer Engineering Technology Program has this year-long capstone senior project course in which we form a team and try to create a technically innovative solution for a real-world problem that significantly impacts society. Looking back, I realize at least two factors influenced our decision on the project. One is that Dr. Yuan introduced us to various applications of a wireless sensor network, including using it to enable real-time health monitoring of people. The other is the “innovative sport” theme that National Instruments (NI) has for their senior project mentoring program managed by Sam Strickling. By participating in the program, NI donated a set of data acquisition hardware and software to our project, allowing us to study the feasibility of our technology in the environment at a higher abstraction level, before moving it to Intel board to make it smaller and more energy efficient. Without our involvement with UH-ISA, we would not be proactively seeking advice from faculty and our industry mentors and may not have brought our initial idea closer to its bloom.

Q: What are your career goals after graduation?

KM: In the long term, I hope to use my technical skill to make a difference, even if only for the people around me. In the short term, I am well positioned to either start a career in automation industry or go directly to graduate school and learn more. Recently, a professor from the university made me an offer researching fuel sells due to my involvement in this project and my academic accomplishments. I am also looking for a job in software or hardware design. Thanks to my involvement in ISA, I was able to learn more about several companies I am interested in and get a closer look at what they do. Though this is a hard decision to make (I am hearing advice both for and against either choice.), eventually I hope to make a choice that will not only match my passion for automation, but also enable me to give back to the community.

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