Paving Paths in Portland

By Amy Wu on Mar 24, 2020
Portland Convention Center, home of SIGCSE 24

During Summer of 2023, I worked on understanding more on a back-end algorithm model for teaching K-12 biology classrooms more on marine anatomy. Then, in Spring 2024, I am honored to announce that I had the opportunity to present our preliminary findings and proposal at the Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE) Conference of 2024 in Portland, Oregon.

Although I encourage collaborators to join our work based on our poster presentation, I also get to explore what the other attendees had delved deeper into through their posters, presentations, lightning talks, and more. I met Dr. Kelly Powers through a middle school computing group meet-up on programming for K-12. It was amazing to hear the stories first-hand from the two keynote speakers, Dr. Todd Zakrajsek and Dr. Jandelyn Plane. There were variety of posters like studies on engaging theme of IDEs to how to use ChatGPT for pair-programming. I listened to lightning talks of unfamiliar research areas like Internet of Things (IoT) to Generative AI. Even from my own university, I learnt more on accessibility with the panel discussion that Dr. Maya Israel and her undergraduate researcher, Andrew Bennett, had offered.

Image of Dr. Todd Zakrajsek's presentation Figure 1 - Dr. Todd Zakrajsek talked about persevering through tough times within academia until he saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

Image of GUTSS poster presentation Figure 2 - I presented my work in GUTSS.

Image of Dr. Jandelyn Plane's presentation Figure 3 - Dr. Jandelyn Plane discussed on how being abroad internationally shaped her worldview in academia, especially on learning and teaching.

Not only was SIGCSE the time to learn more on current and upcoming computing works, but it also was the call to expand your network. Every day we get a chance to meet new students, professors, and job recruiters in Computer Science, even in the most unexpected manners.

One of the recent, unofficial traditions at SIGCSE is to do an Escape Room at the convention’s location. Organized by Dr. Austin Cory Bart, it took place this year at the Portland Escape Rooms, where we did the “Arcade” room, where we worked through arcade-themed puzzles in order to disarm a ticking bomb on scene. It was an excellent way to escape “reality” and learn how to work with a group of new acquaintances to problem-solve. I am glad to announce that we nearly beat first place by five minutes!

Image of Escape Room Arcade Finale Figure 4 - We nearly beat first place!

Although I was the sole representative of the University of Florida’s Practitioners and Researchers Investigating Self-Efficacy & Mentorship (PRISEM) Lab as well as Data Studio, I was also joined by other members of my university, such as Dr. Christina Gardner-McCune, Dr. Jeremiah Blanchard, Prof. Fatemeh Tavassoli, Prof. Amanpreet Kapoor, Brooke Nelson, and Anna Sheehan. Before the last day of the conference, we had dinner at Dough Zone, which had a gorgeous view of the Portland River.

Image of the UF SIGCSE 24 Meetup Figure 5 - We had a gorgeous view while eating dinner!

Besides meeting up with old friends, the first day I was here, I had dinner with a group of PhD students at the Pine Street Market and Voodoo Donuts. Next day, with another group of PhD students, I went to Wolf’s Head for lunch. At the SIGCSE reception, I met another attendee who had been to multiple conferences.

Image of Student Meetup Figure 6 - A group of PhD students and I decided to eat at Pine Street Market and grab a local sweet at the infamous Voodoo Donuts.

Outside of the city. Brooke, Anna, and I also had a chance to explore more on the naturalistic side of Portland. We worked our way to the Japanese Gardens, where we had witnessed a miniature waterfall and tons of cherry blossoms. We also hiked the Redwood Trail to see the redwood trees and the observatory deck. Although the trees made us feel tiny, it was a stark reminder of the many people who worked together in supporting us and the amount of seconds, minutes, and hours that we put in are what brought us together at this point in time.

Image of Redwood Tree Trail and Friends Figure 7 - Brooke, Anna, and I arrived at the observatory deck with the Redwood trees of Portland.

Image of Redwood Trees' Height Figure 8 - We are small in the land of giants.

Thus, I would like to thank UF's Ronald E. McNair program and UF's Engineering Education department for sponcosring the trip to SIGCSE 24. Without their combined support and guidance, I would not have been able to make it to the conference.

Speaking of collaborations, if you are interested in working with the Guided Universal Training for Shark Segmentation (GUTSS), please contact You can also reach us through on our next stage after SIGCSE 2024 to better understand marine anatomy with AI.

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