Ten years after starting college as a running start student, Olin Anderson, 28, is ready to graduate with his Masters in Computer Science. He recently took a break from his thesis to share his story, one filled with a passion for knowledge, for challenges, and picking up new skill sets.
Growing up in the wheat fields of Spangle, just 15 miles from EWU, led Anderson to enroll in running start classes at EWU his senior year of high school. He continued at EWU, earning a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry in 2011. He decided to take a year off from books and work full time on the family farm where he did a lot of maintenance, stuff like painting and construction. After a year of manual labor he found himself back at EWU, this time studying Pre-Med.
Anderson wanted to mix in some other classes, “for fun,” he says, and to balance out the tedium of Biology classes, so he started taking a programming class on top of the Biology series. He had dabbled in computer programming since high school, and taught himself PicBasic Pro, the industry standard BASIC programming language to control microchips.
“I took a quarter of Python, then two quarters of Java.” The next fall he enrolled in an advanced programming class with Prof. Stu Steiner. “One day he asked me why I was majoring in Pre-Med if I was taking his programming courses. He suggested that I consider switching to a Masters in Computer Science.” So he thought about it, and then he decided to make the leap. But he didn’t abandon biology entirely; instead he has combined his fascination with brain science and computer science.
Anderson’s Masters thesis project uses off-the-shelf EEG headset to determine relaxed brain state. “Determining relaxed brain activity is usually done through analyzing recorded data,” he says. “But the advantage of this headset is that we are getting real-time data with the Emotiv Epoc, a $400 dollar off-the-shelf EEG headset.”
If Anderson put on the EEG Headset it would surely detect a brain never at rest, always on the lookout for the next challenge.
“This was new to me,” he says, referring to EEG signal processing. His thesis challenged him to learn yet more skill sets. But Anderson is not complaining. “My EWU professors are very approachable,” he says. “I never had to feel bad about asking questions. They would stay and explain concepts to me until I really understood them.”
Friendly, knowledgeable professors, and reliable student partners are essential to any student’s success, but ultimately, personal drive is most important. It is clear that challenges are what Anderson lives for. In fact, his first full-time programming job will have him stationed on projects all over the world. He landed the position after applying for it at the Spokane regional Computer and Engineering job fair.
“The Computer Science department is really good about encouraging us to go to job fairs,” he says. “At the first one I was just checking it out. But at the next fair I handed out resumes,” he says, “and I got a call back.”
He will be working as a database programmer for Fast Enterprises, will potentially take him all over the world. “One of the job requirements was that you have to be able to periodically relocate.” In fact, Anderson says, “They won’t even tell me where I’m going until June.”
Most would scoff at such a job offer, but after staying close to home his whole life, after nearly a decade of hitting the books, and two science degrees from EWU, Anderson finds the lure of world travel impossible to resist.