A Semester of Products & Social Entrepreneurship

calvin-2016 Calvin, Computer Science, Entrepreneurship, Social & Diversity, Viterbi Class, Viterbi Life, Viterbi Plus, Why USC Leave a Comment

For me this semester is focused on building real products and learning about social entrepreneurship, both inside and outside of the classroom.

In terms of what is going on with classes, my full course list is:

  • CSCI 360: Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
  • CSCI 401: Capstone Project
  • BAEP 470: The Entrepreneurial Mindset – Taking the Leap
  • BAEP 471: Social Innovation Design Lab
  • BAEP 491: Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship
  • WRIT 340: Advanced Writing Communications for Engineers

Building

Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, Capstone Project, and Social Innovation Design Lab are all focused on extremely hands on projects, and all of the work I do for those classes is related to building real solutions for real problems. They also all require me to exercise different engineering and general problem solving skills.

The Capstone Project I am working on is rebuilding TechLA Internships, an online internships platform that connects LA students to quickly growing startups in Los Angeles, as tech.la. Everyone in the Capstone Project class works on a different project in 3 – 8 person teams, meeting weekly with an outside stakeholder. It is really cool to see everyone working a vast set of diverse and interesting problems, and I personally like working on TechLA because it gives me practical engineering experience and an opportunity to support the Los Angeles entrepreneurial community I have grown to love. I am also excited about this project because we are bringing a new brand and “hip” tech stack to tech.la and because building something new from the ground up is a rewarding experience.

A mockup for the new tech.la platform

A mockup for the new tech.la platform

Introduction to Artificial Intelligence is focused on algorithms that are useful for building intelligent systems. It is interesting to learn about how there are some relatively simple algorithmic techniques that can solve a large number of problems that seem “difficult”, while there are other seemingly “easy” problems that require a vast amount of complexity to even begin to tackle. This course is a cross between a history lesson, a cognitive science class, an algorithms challenge and an opportunity to write smart code that solves problems very different than the ones I have solved in my previous internships & classes.

Social Innovation Design Lab is a class that provides students an opportunity to work in a small, diverse team to build a real product in 14 weeks using design thinking principles. The class focuses on opportunities to build products that impact people in low income communities. I have a lot of great things to say about this class, and you can learn more about it in a blog post I will be writing soon!

Mind Mapping in Social Innovation Design Lab

Mind Mapping in Social Innovation Design Lab

Learning

Intro to Social Entrepreneurship and Taking the Leap are both very speaker focused. They are seminar style classes, and the professors bring in amazing leaders to share about the lessons they have learned while tackling big problems in startups, corporations, nonprofits, and social enterprises.

Taking the Leap is taught by David Belasco, the leader of the USC’s entrepreneurship department. Each week Professor Belasco brings in a a leader with unique experiences to share about their mindset, and speakers have ranged from USC’s own Jake Olson, to prestigious neuroscientists to Gloria Steinem.

Intro to Social Entrepreneurship is being taught by two amazing teachers from industry. Ben Goldhirsh founded GOOD and The Goldhirsh Foundation, and Jessica Jackley co-founded kiva.org. Being in class with these two has been a highlight of every week, and I describe it as being similar to a social entrepreneurship podcast that you can interact with. Each week focuses on a different social issue, and requires us to do research on domestic and global issues. They have also brought in amazing guest speakers like Ellen Gustafson, John McArthur and Scott Harrison. I think the main takeaway I have from this class is this: building enterprises that make a significant, positive social impact is not only possible, but extremely practical and an exciting goal to pursue.

Antics with Ben and Jessica in Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship

Antics with Ben and Jessica in Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship

Both of these classes have exposed me to the minds of brilliant people that have done amazing work over the course of their lives, and are continuing to do so each week. It is somewhat overwhelming to absorb the experiences of so many people that have so much to share, and these classes have been a great complement to the product and implementation focused classes I am taking this semester.

This has been my favorite set of courses in my time at USC. Each class challenges me to use different skills that I have built up during my time here, and the semester as a whole reminds me of some of the reasons I came to USC in the first place –– to become a formidable engineer, to have access to groundbreaking industry leaders, to focus on building skills outside of and in parallel with my engineering skills, and to be surrounded by incredible smart & compassionate peers.

As a side note:

The odd class out is writing, which actually has been more fun than I would have thought. I have had a lot of ability to choose the topics that I write about, and have written papers on the Hyperloop and the Ethics of Uber!

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Computer Science, Class of 2017, Learn more on his profile here!

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