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A Jesuit College Preparatory Experience

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Engineers Discuss Big Data with Computer Science Students

This fall, two engineers from Northrop Grumman Corporation in Rolling Meadows visited computer science classes to discuss technology and big data with Loyola’s budding computer scientists in the school’s brand new STEM lab.  
What exactly is big data?

“Big data simply means more information than an organization can manage effectively with their current business intelligence program,” explains computer science teacher Ms. Anita Debarlaben. In class, she and her students are examining big data and what makes it unique. Her students can tell you that big data is characterized by three primary factors: volume, velocity and variety. But Debarlaben wanted to do more in her classroom than study big data as an abstract concept; she wanted her students to learn firsthand how it’s used in the real world.

“One of my favorite teaching strategies is to keep it real,” she explains. “I like to give my students as many real life examples as possible. Technology is changing at a phenomenal rate
so the best way to engage and encourage curiosity is to expose them to real life examples.”

To assist with this deeper understanding, Debarlaben turned to Cynthia Jackson and Alexis Caldwell, two engineers at Northrop Grumman Corporation, an American global aerospace and defense technology company. Before teaching at Loyola, Debarlaben herself worked as an engineer in the company’s Digital Systems organization where she wrote electronic countermeasures for the F15-Eagle, the U.S. Air Force’s primary fighter jet aircraft and intercept platform.

Engineers Jackson and Caldwell spoke to students about how Northrop Grumman, named the fifth-largest defense contractor in the world in 2015, uses big data to provide innovative systems, products and security solutions to government and commercial customers worldwide.

“I was surprised to see the career fields and opportunities that computer science and programming has at Northrop Grumman,” says Catherine A. Power ’19. “I learned that the company has an aerospace sector, and I thought that it was interesting to see how technology has such a huge impact in the world today.”

The presentation comes at a time of growth for Loyola’s computer science program. Students can now take courses in computer science principles, which provides a solid foundation for understanding how the computer as a whole works, and Java programming.

To accommodate this growth and other STEM curriculum, this past summer Loyola’s Global Communication Center (GCC), formerly a dedicated foreign language lab opened in 2000, was reconfigured to be a more flexible and functional learning space that meets the needs of language students on one side and computer science students on the other. The renovation was made possible by a generous grant from the Helen V. Brach Foundation.

The new STEM lab is now a completely wireless environment with 30 Dell latitude laptops for student use and two 65” flat panel displays that can be used with Apple TV.  The teacher workstation is equipped with a 21” Dell 7450 wireless all-in-one computer and a high definition logitech webcam for online video conferencing. The STEM lab also has a Mersive Solstice POD installed. This hardware agnostic device allows students to mirror their laptops to each display and will support as many as 10 connected devices at once. Audio is delivered via TOA 700A Amps and four ceiling mounted speakers. In addition, the new mobile furniture, Debarlaben says, enables students to engage in more collaborative learning.

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