For the second consecutive year, University of Montana student Scott Halstvedt will spend his summer “flipping bits, not burgers” as a participant in Google’s Summer of Code.
Summer of Code is a program designed to give university undergraduates a chance to work with software communities to develop open-source projects. Students receive a $5,000 stipend for their work, allowing them to gain crucial real-world experience in their field instead of working a job unrelated to their major to survive financially during the summer.
About 1,200 projects from around the world are accepted each summer, and fewer than 220 of those are from the United States.
Halstvedt, a computer science major from Billings, will work with the Natural User Interface Group, which focuses on hardware and software related to natural interactions. He will rewrite code for Community Core Vision, a tool that analyzes finger movement and position, allowing users to build large-scale interactive surfaces, such as massive public art installations and advertisements.
“My project is to work with several researchers around the world to rewrite CCV as a more general-purpose machine sensing solution,” Halstvedt said. “That is, instead of just having a fixed function and process, we aim to make CCV a platform for continued experimentation. … We should be able to point at an object in the room and refer to it when speaking to the computer, and it should be able to understand the concepts behind spatial and symbolic representations as we do.”
Halstvedt said the best widely known example of the this type of programming is Microsoft Kinect, a motion-sensing device used with the Xbox 360 video game console that allows users to play without touching a game controller.
This is the second year Halstvedt will participate in Summer of Code. He worked on a similar project with the Natural User Interface Group in 2011, which inspired this year’s application.
“It’s been kind of a dream for me to get a paycheck with ‘Google’ on the top, so it was very surreal,” Halstvedt said.
Halstvedt, who said he’s been intrigued by computers since before he can remember, started writing code when he was in elementary school. He enrolled in college computer science courses while still in high school and educated himself online about code, design and math. He attended Rocky Mountain College and the University of the Pacific before transferring to study computer science at UM, where he also works part-time at the campus IT department.
Halstvedt said he’s known about the Summer of Code program since he was in high school and was disappointed he couldn’t participate then.
“I’ve had ambitions for most of my life to work at either Apple, Google or Microsoft making computers better and easier to use than what I saw growing up,” Halstvedt said. “The program piqued my interest because of its relationship to Google, almost certainly. And I am getting an opportunity to do radical stuff that is way more explorative than what most engineers at Google spend their time doing.”