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Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture EECS News@WSU 2014

Pole Vaulting into Computer Science

Kelsey Bueno pole vaulting

When Kelsey Bueno started high school, she thought she would be a wrestler, and when she started college she thought she’d be an architect.

Instead she ended up competing in track in high school, a move that landed her a scholarship to pole vault for WSU—where her leap from architecture to computer science landed her an internship at EMC Isilon, a major data storage company in Seattle.

Bueno started wrestling in middle school and was excited to join the high school team as a freshman. Her wrestling coach, who also coached track, saw potential in her and asked her to join track. Bueno was interested—except that she hated running.

He told me I could pole vault and then I’d only have to run one lap with the team, and just jump the rest of the time. Of course it ended up being more running than that, but I discovered I had a knack for pole vaulting and stuck with it,” Bueno said.

She earned an athletic scholarship to WSU and took fourth place at the Pac-12 competition last year—all while maintaining a 3.5 GPA in computer science courses.

“Writing code is kind of like telling a story in a different language,” says Bueno, a first generation college student. “Before you can start building the program, you have
to define the values you’ll be using with a variable the computer will recognize—like defining words and concepts in order to write a story that people understand.”

Kelsey Bueno laughingSimilar to her wrestling coach, Adam Carter, the clinical associate professor teaching her computer science class, recognized Bueno’s natural propensity for coding. He encouraged her to consider the field, and she jumped right in.

Even though her days are crammed with track practice, class, weight training, and homework, her coding skills have only improved, thanks in part to support from friends she made freshman year. Last spring she was a teaching assistant for a beginning computer science class, and then landed a summer internship as a software test engineer at EMC Isilon. The company has offered her an internship next summer, and she is excited to continue getting practical experience.

“I like that computer science is like a puzzle on the computer. There are a million different ways to make a program and the challenge makes me think critically,” she said.