Innovation Ready: Profiles

Madeline Cohen ’15

A passion for computer science and information technology developed late for Madeline Cohen ’15, but she has more than made up for lost time. Cohen joined USM’s House of Technology during her junior year and quickly developed an interest and aptitude for troubleshooting devices as she answered tickets and entered classrooms to repair devices.

That interest evolved as Cohen took on more of a leadership role in HOT during her senior year, organizing events, recruiting members, and developing the Student Technology Conference, which provides an international forum for the sharing of educational technology in schools and other academic settings for students in grades 6-12. As USM’s representative, Cohen engaged in monthly Skype meetings with other school representatives, helped brand the event, and presented on the House of Technology to other student members from around the world. Cohen credits her work with Director of Academic Technology Nikki Lucyk and Technology Support Coordinator Deidre McCain as instrumental in her current career pursuits.

“They are responsible for my interest in technology and coding, and showed me all of the opportunities that women can have in the field,” Cohen said. “They taught me in-valuable troubleshooting skills and were al-ways there for me when I had questions or needed more information.”

Through USM’s Internship and Shadowing Program, Cohen served as an information technology intern with RF Technologies and is interning with Snap-On Tools this summer. She is currently pursuing a degree in Computer Science at Villanova University and has seized several opportunities to expand her knowledge base, attending multiple Women in Tech conferences, touring the offices of Google in New York City for a recruiting event, and speaking with one of the lead animators for Pixar during her freshman year.

Kurt Stiehl ’03

After excelling in the early days of the USM Science Fair and as a member of the Upper School theatre crew, Kurt Stiehl ’03 brought his intellectual curiosity for design to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and eventually, Apple, Inc., where he now thrives as a product design manager. Responsible for many of the Apple product accessories that so many of us carry on a daily basis, including iPhone “bumper” cases, earpods, and more, Stiehl still reflects on some of the lessons learned from his days developing his science project, which involved the acoustic modeling of rooms.

“(Former USM Upper School Science Teacher) Brian Pack was a huge influence on me, encouraging me to push with my project and advising me on how to better run my experiment,” Stiehl said. “His deep intellectual curiosity propelled me further to think outside of the box.”

That curiosity and problem-solving ability has served Stiehl well as he leads product development teams that solve complex design issues for Apple. When asked what kind of advice Stiehl would give to the next generation of aspiring USM innovators, he stressed the importance of teamwork and an eagerness to attack problems intellectually, even if it leads to failure from time to time.
“Dream now, and don’t wait to try and solve the problems around you,” Stiehl said. “Learn fast, build fast, and try again. And don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Cristina Costantini ’07

Cristina Costantini ’07 has enjoyed an atypical career path as an award-winning reporter following graduation at USM, using her skills and abilities as a social scientist as a springboard to a career as an investigative journalist. Costantini, who worked for the Huffing-ton Post before settling in as a journalist for Fusion, an ABC/Univision collaboration, won an award at Intel ISEF in 2004 for her research and study of the impact of peer pressure and conformity.

While Costantini did not ultimately pursue a career in science, it’s undeniable that many of the researching, long-term planning, and organizational skills she sharpened as a scientist have served her well in her chosen field.

“It’s clear that USM has one of the strongest science programs in the country, one that fosters fruitful, independent learning,” Costantini said. “My experiences in science and innovation have helped me study complex issues on a micro level, and have served me well as a journalist.”

Costantini returned to Intel ISEF in 2016, interviewing several participants for an upcoming documentary that she hopes to produce and release by the end of 2017.

Matt Junker ’85

For many young boys, working in the field of astronautics is a childhood dream, but for Matt Junker ’85, his passion for innovation helped make it a reality. Following his time at USM, Junker graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with degrees in engineering and computer science and entered the U.S. Navy, where he underwent a series of trainings before emerging as a submarine officer and instructor of missile launching procedures.

After completing his naval duties, Junker joined the Astronautics Corporation of America as a software engineer, where he has served for the last 19 years, working primarily with cockpit display software and airborne servers. Meanwhile, Junker has served as a judge at the USM Upper School Science Fair and remembers his time at the School fondly, reflecting that he of-ten learned most during his formative years from making mistakes.

“Pay attention to the details, be curious, challenge yourself, and have fun,” Junker said. “I’ve found that some of the best experiences come from experiments that fail.”

David Routier ’14

Even as a child, David Routier ’14 always had a knack for taking things apart and putting them back together. Now, entering his junior year at the Rochester Institute of Technology as a computer engineering and electrical engineering double major, Routier is using his skills to help create a “smart grid” that will better protect our nation’s electric grid system against broken lines or outside hacks.

As a junior at USM, Routier co-founded the House of Technology with Jacob Wine ’16, providing technical support for school devices and personal technology and device repair for School personnel. Routier still serves as a consultant for HOT, and credits his participation in the group as a primary factor in his current career path.

“The House of Technology was easily the biggest factor in helping me realize what I wanted to do after Upper School,” Routier said. “USM Director of Academic Technology Nikki Lucyk’s support and trust was very important to the development of the HOT concept, and without her support would not be what it is today.”
With the HOT now established in Upper School, Routier looks forward to what students might be able to do next.

“Innovation is something that never ends,” Routier said. “Because of their nature, high-tech fields are not easy to enter, but can be very rewarding if it is what you truly want to do. I can’t wait to see where things go next, and what I can do to help change the world.”

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