Inspiring. That was the word Heitor Castro kept coming back to when he reflected on his recent participation in Google’s annual Scholar’s Retreat in June.
“It expanded my thinking and creativity when thinking about my own projects,” the UNL computer engineering major said. “And it inspired me to think about how I can help spread computer science knowledge to a broader audience.”
Castro, who is in UNL’s Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management, traveled to the Google campus near San Francisco to attend the five-day retreat after being selected as a Generation Google Scholar. The Generation Google Scholarship was established to aid aspiring computer scientists to excel and become leaders in the field. Just 36 students nationwide were picked.
Castro is the first UNL student to be named a Generation Google Scholar.
The retreat introduced students to many career possibilities in computer science and encouraged community outreach. The scholars sat in on staff meetings, had technology forums with Google leaders, toured “Googleplex,” got an inside look at emerging technology and networked with fellow attendees. As an incoming sophomore, Castro said he was one of the youngest scholars in attendance.
“It was really great to be working with graduate students,” he said. “We got to hear about their projects, which are much more in-depth, and talk about graduate school.”
During the retreat Castro took part in a Hack-a-Thon, where he and others developed a Web platform aimed at helping students learn computer coding. Castro oversaw the user interface development, which won an award.
He said the retreat also inspired him to think more seriously about his future, specifically graduate school and future entrepreneurship. The award includes a one-time $10,000 scholarship, which Castro said he plans to use to begin new coding projects.
Castro, who is from Brazil, said the level of excellence and hard work required of Raikes School students prepared him for the experience.
“The Raikes School is really a great environment,” Castro said. “The computer science program is challenging, but the high level of excellence expected gave me the courage to apply and tackle this type of application.”
After having a few days to process the whirlwind experience, Castro said he is ready to tackle some new challenges in computer science and engineering. The retreat cemented his resolve to continue his selected academic path. While Castro was impressed with Google, he hopes to someday start his own company.
“I really love to create things and computer science is really just about creating innovations,” he said. “That’s exciting to me. I don’t see any limits to the possibilities.”