This summer a group of students at SMCM are completing internships with vCalc.com. The site is a crowd-sourced calculating encyclopedia, a “Wikipedia for equations,” Chris Lynch, a vCalc intern, commented. The student’s internships involved coding equations and calculators for a variety of fields of study alongside highly detailed explanations. “We want to make this as detailed as possible,” fellow intern Tyler Jones explained. The grant was jointly funded by the Maryland Industrial Partnerships Program (MIPS) and vCalc itself, and totaled $97, 361.
There are eight students on the team and five professors. Emek Köse, assistant professor of math; Randolph Larsen, associate professor of chemistry;Joshua Grossman, associate professor of physics; Richard Platt, associate professor of psychology; and Shizuka Nishikawa, assistant professor of economics.
Kurt Heckman, vCalc Chief Executive Officer, came to campus in February and again late in June. In a meeting with the students and staff involved and alongside President Dr. Jordan he congratulated the students on their accomplishments and efforts in producing products of global use. According to Dr. Larsen the project is halfway done.
In the meeting in June with the students, a MIPS representative, and several professors, Heckman told the room how vCalc began. Average people didn’t even know how to calculate the square feet of a room, he’d noticed. Several students laughed at that. And now, with vCalc, you can easily find out “even if your kitchen is an octagon.”
Chris Lynch, a rising senior, is majoring in computer science with a minor in math and economics. His job is to teach students how to code the calculators they wish to add to the database and to be involved with their production.
Savannah Bergen will graduate in 2018, and is majoring in math and computer science with a minor in physics. Bergen worked with Caleb Svobodny, and were specifically responsible for coding math equations for the vCalc website.
Tyler Jones also plans to graduate in 2018. He is a double major in physics and computer science. He’s coded 9 calculators, 56 equations, and 4 datasets. One of his calculators is built as a virtual lab for classrooms that are not outfitted for the project, or lack the time. It features built-in errors to make the virtual lab more realistic.
Emma Skekel is a rising senior with a major in chemistry and a minor in environmental studies. Her work for vCalc with Daria Vaseneva in the field of chemistry involved coding and explaining equations relevant to that field.
Austin Schlegel coded equations in the field of microeconomics and Caroline Robertson in psychology.
The students themselves found it easy to list off the things they had gained from the project. Programming skills were agreed to be the foremost personal benefit followed by a reinforced knowledge of the formulas they had coded. Others noted that the real-life experience, relevant to each of their respective majors, was a brand-new experience that would look great on a resume.
“I could not be happier,” Heckman said, after students had finished presenting their work. “When we built vCalc we had no idea… This project has shown some diversity I just did not see coming.” He thanked everyone for their exceptionally diligent, thoughtful work. It was the best investment he’d ever made, he said.
Think about it. “You just built some tools that are now available to anyone on the planet.” He laughed, and then told everyone he knows that none of this stuff is going to go viral. But things that go viral burn out too quickly, “The content you just put out there has longevity.”