Imagine it's a beautiful day in Whistler. The sun is shining and you're snowboarding down a mountain of fresh powder. Now, imagine that your goggles can not only tell you how fast you are going, but also how high up on the mountain you are, what temperature it is, and even your precise location. Computing Science Co-op student Leif Stroman recently completed a co-op work term with Recon Instruments, where he had the opportunity to significantly influence the company's new high tech gadget, "Transcend". The world's first GPS-enabled goggles complete with a head-mounted display system, Transcend goggles provide real-time information about your speed, latitude/longitude, time, temperature, and much more. Aside from GPS, these goggles are also the only ones in the world that have USB charging and data transfer, as well as free post-processing software.
Leif was brought on as the only software engineer for this product. Under the guidance of his supervisor Xichi Zheng, he was given the opportunity to work on the product from beginning to end, deciding everything from how he implemented the system to how the graphic layout was going to look.
"they brought me in to head the development of the PC application, where I was given full control over the implementation of the project."
This was a major plus for Stroman. The software that he has built, called Recon HQ, shows you all of the stats that are recorded by the goggles. It also lets you keep all of this information in one place, while you track your trips, or even over an entire season. Leif also designed the main application's sister app, an online player which shows the statistics that the Transcend goggles have recorded. This online player works with a module that loads resort map overlays on top of Google maps, which was created by Leif's co-worker Hongzi Wang. Using this software, you can upload your own stats, and you can also see what people around the world have been up to with their Transcend goggles.
In addition to engineering the software for these innovative goggles, Leif also got to test them. Not only are these goggles meant for the snow, they are also ideal for land, and even sky activities. One of the highlights of his Co-op term was going skydiving for the first time. When asked if he was nervous, Leif said,
"I had maybe a butterfly or two, but I told myself I'm doing it."
Jumping out of the plane door was something else, according to him. He went up 14,000 feet and free fell for over a minute, about double the time of most dives. The goggles tracked his descent, and once he was back on solid ground, he uploaded his stats to Google Earth. He could then see his descent displayed in 3D. Besides testing the goggles by free falling through the air, Leif also used them while skiing the Whistler Glacier in the middle of summer. The main purpose of this outing was to test the goggle's sensors such as GPS and barometer.
Since their launch in November, Recon Instruments have sold out of their 10,000 units to snowboarders, skiers, snow-mobilers, mountain bikers, runners, base jumpers and skydivers from every corner of the world. Transcend goggles are even going on the trek of a lifetime with polar explorer Jason De Carteret, who will be breaking the current overland record across Antarctica to the South Pole. How has being involved with such pioneering technology affected Leif's career goals?
"I have learned more than just strictly computer science aspects from my work term such as marketing, engineering, product testing, customer support strategies, and of course, software development," he says.
Working in an environment with four young MBA graduates from UBC, who playfully teased him "for being too dressed up on [his] first day" inspired Leif. Leif has continued on with Recon Instruments post Co-op placement, and plans to keep in touch with them after the summer.
"They are building some cool next gen stuff, and I want to stay and have a hand in that," he says.
This Co-op placement has introduced Leif to some invaluable contacts.
"The best thing [Co-op] does is it gives you a good foot in the door,"
Leif explains. He says that since his experience, he would most definitely recommend the Co-op program to others. When he talks to his friends about Co-op he always tells them it's a great idea.
"You can learn all you want in school, but if you haven't applied it in the real world, you will be far less attractive to employers," says Stroman.
Besides the practical experience Co-op provides, Leif says that Co-op has really improved his resume and cover letter writing skills. Leif had an amazing experience with a company working to radically change the adventures of thousands of people, and he is very grateful.
"The opportunity wouldn't have been there if it wasn't for Co-op."
Beyond the Blog
- Learn more about the Engineering Co-op program at SFU