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Blog Post #3 – What I Learned  February 28th, 2024

What a course! It is both exciting to finally get to this point in the program so close to graduation, while simultaneously being a reminder of my ever-present imposter syndrome in this career field. I’m certainly not the first or only person with these thoughts, and I certainly won’t be the last, but going through this course has eased those fears, albeit ever so slightly. Group projects are usually a drag, especially in online courses. I have had both great groups, and we’ll say “less than ideal” groups in this program. I was lucky for Capstone to have one of the former. Each person of the team was communicative, productive, and helpful. When one of us was struggling, someone was there to help. It reminded me that although I don’t know as much as I would like about the world of software engineering, it’s alright. There will always be others, whether on your team, in your workplace, or friends in the industry that can help you and encourage you to grow and learn. If there was a success for me in this course, it was that realization. It helped ease fears that I was not ready to graduate, and subsequently enter the field.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, we did not do much actual coding for this class, as our project was aimed at exclusively AI tools to build a web app. We relied heavily, on purpose, on AI to essentially do our work for us, documenting our experience and usage along the way. For that reason, there were not many technical successes I experienced this term, and showed that my success was a psychological one.

Overall though, it was a very informative class in many ways, even from the explorations, and I feel more prepared than I did at the start of class to graduate. I have benefited greatly from both the explorations that give great advice, as well as from my fellow classmates, especially those in my group. Even though we had to use AI to create our app, it still required a lot of time and effort to create, and I can see myself utilizing some of the tools we researched in the future to not replace coding, but to help enhance and further both my own learning and production. We are entering an interesting time in computer science and it is a good thing that we be familiar with and learn to work with new and improving tools and technology.

Blog Post #2  February 8th, 2024

How are you using AI in your project (or another one)? What are some pros and cons? Has it made you a better programmer?

This is an easy one. All of it, all the things! My group and I are working on the AI Coder project, which requires that we use AI tools as much as possible to create a web app. We chose to create an animal adoption app for this and have been using AI exclusively for this project since the beginning. In short, AI is everything for this project. I personally have been involved with some of the design process for the app and have used chatGPT (obviously) as well as some other obscure website design AI tools like Uizard and WIX. Both of these design tools function very much like Figma (which I am using in my Usability Engineering class), in that they create an interactive wireframe concept for your website or app. I have used chatGPT 4 for much of my code generation, right now mostly just HTML/CSS. I still plan to try and experiment with more tools like Bard or DALL-E, but we’ll focus on the others for now. chatGPT, especially the new paid version, is great. I still think it is one of the best tools for code generation, and I am also able to set up ‘profiles’ or tabs where we discuss separate topics. It knows and remembers conversations in a specific chat and can answer based on all the info I have given it up to that point, which is very cool. I don’t have to start from scratch anytime I want to ask a question about something we spoke about two weeks ago. The code is good, but it could be better. Actually, for just some assistance writing code, it is great! But for a project like ours where we want to only use AI to create the app, it leaves a bit to be desired. It always provides sections of code for the user to complete themselves and gives a basic framework to start with. Since I am trying to have it create all of the code, it takes a little coaxing to get it to fill in any missing sections, but it does eventually. Funnily enough, it’s not until after I tell it “My project requires every bit of code to be written by AI” that it decides to acquiesce and assist me more. Despite all this though, it has been very impressive, and has of course aided us in the project. I’m not sure that in this course it has made me a better programmer, as of course I need to use it exclusively, but I know that in other classes it certainly has. When I am stuck on something, or am getting errors that I don’t understand, asking it questions and feeding it my code to troubleshoot has definitely been a great learning experience, as I can see what mistakes I made, and how to either fix them, or write better, more efficient code. Ultimately, I have had a positive experience, and while there are some deficiencies still, I can certainly see a future where these tools will be invaluable, and a part of daily life.

Blog Post 1  January 12th, 2024

Welcome, everyone, to the blog! My name is Brandon, and I am in my final stretch of classes at Oregon State in the Computer Science program. I never saw myself doing this sort of thing ten years ago when I first started college, as I changed my major four times in three years, ranging from Architecture to Theatre. Because of that, though, I joined the Air Force, learned Arabic, and have been working as an Arabic Linguist for the past decade. I got my BA in Arabic a few years ago but have decided on a career change when I separate from the military next year. Many of my colleagues are also doing similar degrees in software engineering, and after speaking with them and countless hours of research, I decided that this was something I had a newfound interest in. Two years later, and I am almost at the finish line! I could not be happier to embark on this new journey and to see what awaits me back in the civilian world. Prior to this program, I had no coding or software experience. I have always been good with science, math, and technology, and learning a language like Arabic has, in my opinion, really helped me in this program. Learning how to code really is very similar to learning a language, you have to deal with style, structure, and syntax, as well as combining words and phrases (or commands) to achieve a certain result – either a message conveyed, or a function executed. It is a fascinating parallel that I have had the privilege to experience. Outside of my linguist and school life, I enjoy reading and watching movies. I consider myself an amateur cinephile, and I attempt to watch as many releases each year as I can. Many of those hours watching movies or reading are with my wife and four dogs. We have four dachshunds – too many, I know. They just kept appearing in my house anytime my wife thought new friends were needed for the others. Luckily we have the disorder under control now and are enjoying life with all of them in Tucson, Arizona, where I am based. All in all, they and my wife have been very supportive the last couple years that I have been in the program. There have been long and stressful nights, and I am certainly glad to be close to the end, but I am glad to have done it. I love solving problems and creating new things – with which this program has certainly been a good challenge. I am particularly anticipating this capstone project, though I am not sure what it will be yet. I am hoping to be able to contribute to a mobile app project, which I have never done before. It will be a fun exercise to learn something new and to have a real project that I can be proud of. We will see how it goes, and I will update what that project is in my next post. Until then, happy coding!