By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

Members of the School of Information Studies (iSchool) student chapter of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) enjoyed an informative tour of IBM headquarters recently, including an up-close look at the company’s mainframe computers.

Associate Professors of Practice Susan Dischiave and David Dischiave, ACM faculty advisors, helped the chapter organize the visit, and accompanied a group of about a dozen students on the tour of system Z mainframe manufacturing facilities at IBM headquarters in Poughkeepsie, NY.

“Our tour guide keenly explained the processes that go into building a mainframe. It was an eye-opener to see the work that goes into building these machines that power up the world,” noted David Mwanzia, ACM chapter president and a senior at the iSchool. He said students got to see how IBM quality-tests its systems before they are sold, with machines “being literally exposed to below-zero temperatures in a refrigerator, being exposed to high temperatures, and even being put into a room that's meant to simulate an earthquake.” The group also enjoyed a talk about IBM’s vision of cloud computing, and lunched with several newly hired IBM employees, hearing about their work experiences, Mwanzia added.

Junior Rosaly Salcedo explained that the trip permitted her to connect her learning with the real world. “This experience taught me new things that I would not typically see nor learn in a classroom. Being able to physically see the actual mainframes in action, while the tour guide helped us understand what they are and what they do…helped me understand the overall aspects of mainframes…and appreciate even more of what technology can do for our society,” she added.

Graduate student Rahul Tiwari enjoyed a talk an IBM staff member presented regarding cloud computing. “It was very informative and it gave me insight of where the IT industry is currently moving to…and potentially my career goal,” he commented.

For Jesus Ortiz, an iSchool senior, the visit “was all I could have hoped for and then some. It was awesome to see the ins and outs of an IBM plant, and I learned a whole lot about mainframes and how they work. The hospitality from IBM was amazing, and it truly was a remarkable experience.”

The trip was organized from the IBM side by Troy Crutcher, who coordinates activities for IBM's Academic Initiative program. “The Academic Initiative folks are always delighted to host student groups,” said Susan Dischiave. “All of the folks that we meet seem very pleased to meet with the students and share their knowledge and expertise.”

Sarah Weber, director of employer relations for the iSchool, said the field visit presents “a wonderful opportunity for both our students and IBM.” The tour permits students to see how the skills they are learning in their Global Enterprise Technologies courses play into mainframe systems, and how that technology is leveraged in supporting the economy and the banking and retail industries, she noted. From IBM’s perspective, bringing students to IBM is “a great opportunity for our students to see the IBM of today, and to envision the kinds of opportunities that exist there.”  

The school organized a similar tour of IBM several years ago, and hopes to do so again in the future, according to Weber.

The ACM chapter is open to iSchool students as well as Computer Science majors.