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National Engineers Week student feature: Gabbi Kelley

February 21-27 is National Engineers Week, and WVU Tech is celebrating by sharing the stories of students who are preparing to launch their careers and alumni who are doing great things in theirs. Part 3 of our 5-part series covers all things computers, and introduces Golden Bears from WVU Tech’s computer engineering and computer science programs.

Computer engineering student, Gabbi Kelley.

Computer Engineering student, Gabbi Kelley.

WVU Tech’s Gabbi Kelley can tell you exactly when she knew computer engineering was the career for her.

“Since I got my first laptop in 2006, I’ve had an interest in computers and how they work. I’ve always thought it was fun to understand ‘under the hood’ of a computer a little more than the typical user would,” she said.

A decade later, the Beckley, West Virginia native is wrapping up her undergraduate degree in computer engineering with a minor in mathematics at WVU Tech. She said she chose the University for its reputation and small campus environment.

During her time at WVU Tech, Kelley stayed involved on campus, holding leadership positions and active membership status in a number of student-run organizations. She’s a member of the Student Government Association and is active in WVU Tech’s faith-based student organizations, including Campus Light, Illuminate and the Christian Student Union.

Last year, Kelley was also instrumental in the founding of Golden Bear Outdoor Expeditions, a student group established in the fall 2015 semester. She’s vice president of the organization, which organizes outdoor adventure trips such as hiking, zip-lining, ice skating, caving, rappelling and fishing.

Outside of the classroom, Kelley said she likes to spend her free time in artistic pursuits. She’s a painter, and enjoys working in watercolor and acrylics. She’s also a jewelry maker She sells her creations at craft fairs and online. Over the last three years, she has established a successful shop on Etsy where she sells her handmade bracelets and necklaces.

Kelley also enjoys helping others. She has worked as a peer tutor in the University’s Student Success Center for the last three years, offering advice and assistance to students in math and computer engineering courses. She even spends her summer breaks giving tours to new students and helping out during open house recruitment events.

With graduation day on the horizon, Kelley said she’s excited about launching her new career. She hopes to find herself working for companies like Apple or Google, who are known for pushing the boundaries of innovation.

“My dream job as a computer engineer has always been to help design the next great product. In my day-to-day life, I naturally think of ways to improve the efficiency or ease of use of common, household items. For instance, when I’m using my iPhone I consider what Apple should add in their next software update,” she said.

“I also hope to work with exciting new technologies such as virtual reality,” she said. “Recently, Tesla Studios has developed a full body haptic virtual reality suit that allows video gamers to feel what their character would feel.”

Kelley is looking forward to working in computer engineering because she sees it as an opportunity to stay sharp and to work on the cutting-edge.

“My field is exciting because it’s always changing and technology is always improving. New programming languages, software tools and new processes are constantly in development. For example, the programming languages I have learned so far might be obsolete within ten years,” she said.

In addition to keeping up with constantly evolving processes, Kelley said one of the great challenges in her field if fitting more tech in less space. It’s a challenge she and other emerging computer engineers are ready to face.

“Since the invention of computers, our devices have become smaller and smaller. An issue the computer engineering industry is facing right now is that transistors are limited in how small and how close together they can be,” she said.

“In the next few years, I see computer engineers creating devices on a smaller and smaller scale. I’m excited to see how new technologies can be applied to the medical field, the aerospace industry, and in our day-to-day lives,” she said.

Kelley said that another challenge in computer engineering is recruiting females into the field.

“The most surprising thing I’ve learned about my field is the extreme lack of female representation. When I chose my major, I never imagined I was making a decision that was unusual for women. However, my classmates and professors have never made me feel out of place for being part of the minority. I would encourage any woman interested in engineering to pursue it,” she said.

She spent two summers working as a counselor in WVU Tech’s popular Camp STEM program, where she was able to provide some of that encouragement. She worked with middle and high school students to explore engineering fields.

She said that sparking an interest in engineering at a young age helps young students see opportunities they may not have otherwise discovered.

“Children want to be doctors, musicians and princesses when they grow up because their favorite cartoon characters represent those fields. If engineering was introduced to students at a younger age, I think there would be a greater interest in it, resulting in greater diversity in the field,” she said.