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Taking the initiative on internships

zoom screenshot displaying 4 students

Infinity team members on a video call to discuss the coming summer

With companies shuttering their doors because of the COVID-19 crisis, internship opportunities can seem few and far between. These NYU Tandon students weren’t simply going to give up and play Animal Crossing or lounge around all summer, however. They’re taking decisive action to help themselves and their classmates gain real-world experience.

Because building a community on a virtual deserted island may be fun, but using what you’ve learned in school to help a nonprofit organization or business thrive is magnitudes more meaningful and satisfying.

They need tech talent; we’ve got tech talent

Shivam Jindal, a junior majoring in computer science, grew increasingly distressed as friend after friend told him about how their summer plans were being derailed and internships canceled. Active in the undergraduate student council (and looking forward to serving as the incoming vice president this fall), his goal was always to make things better for his fellow students — but now, things just seemed to be getting worse. 

Jindal had first gotten involved in computer science when a volunteer from Microsoft’s Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program came to his high school, and he now tries to pay it forward by teaching AP computer science courses at a Brooklyn school and working with the nonprofit Computer Science for All (CSforALL).

Other nonprofits, Jindal realized, could benefit from having tech-savvy help, and he knew just where to find a large group of bright people with 21st-century skills and the desire to use them to benefit society. “They need tech talent, and we’ve got tech talent,” he explained. Thus far he’s recruited almost 60 students and is currently conducting initial interviews to match them with projects. “Everyone should be using what they’re learning at Tandon to make a positive impact,” he said, “and I’m happy to be playing a part in that.” 

The Infinity Project

When Lucas Hu, a master’s student studying computer science, read about Duke University’s Phoenix Project, he was intrigued. The project was aimed at students seeking a meaningful summer experience despite the sudden cancellation of many programs and internships.

There were Tandon students in exactly the same boat, he knew, and he set out to launch a similar initiative here. He joined forces with Victoria Lu, Diwen Lu, and Henry Ou, students from Courant and the Center for Data Science he had met through an NYU social group, and, with the help of NYU Tandon Career Services, they sketched out a plan for the Infinity Project.

Although they are in the early stages, they hope over the summer to match as many students as possible to virtual learning experiences in the industry during the summer of 2020. They foresee two tracks: company projects related to their needs in software engineering, data science, machine learning, natural language processing, and other such areas; and student-initiated projects, which individuals or groups could propose based on their interests.  

“They can be pilot projects, a trunk of independent work, or even a research project,” the Infinity team explained. “We’ll be focused on projects that can be done by groups of three or four students in 10 to 12 weeks, with each student working from 15 to 30 hours, depending on what they can commit to.”

Companies, they hope, will assign an industry veteran to mentor the students and perhaps provide a small stipend if they are able. 

They have already been in discussions with a startup aimed at helping local restaurants affected by the pandemic. “They want to integrate with a third-party tool for order management, and that involves software development, data analysis, and UI/UX design — all things our students excel in.”

“Our students have been through a great deal this past semester, with upheaval in their academic, personal, and professional lives,” said Associate Dean of Career Services Karine-Frédérique Loriot. “That their determination and passion is undimmed is incredibly impressive. The fact that they are rolling up their sleeves to help one another is also a testament to the kind of student we educate — smart, empathetic, innovative. These are just the kinds of people companies are looking to hire.”