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Jarred Light

When Jarred Light was 14 years old, he took apart his broken laptop searching for answers and remembers how he felt when he uncovered what was beneath its hard plastic exterior.

“When you remove the curtain behind what you think a computer is, it really opens your mind to so many possibilities,” Light said. “Seeing the components and how they interact with one another makes you see the world in a different way.”

Fast-forward 10 years and that curious, determined teenager tinkering with his laptop now holds a bachelor’s degree in computing from ETSU and will enter graduate school this fall working toward a master’s in applied computer science. Light transferred to ETSU after discovering a strong desire to learn about software programming as opposed to servicing and networking.

“Coding is all about creativity. There’s definitely an artistic side to it in terms of how the code is written,” he said.

It didn’t take Light long to feel at home at ETSU. He was immediately impressed by faculty in the Department of Computing and says they supported him and became invested in his learning from the very start.

“When I came to ETSU, I realized how software really interacts with our daily lives and how much of an impact it makes on everyday processes,” Light said. “Whether you’re in athletics, business, politics or any field you can possibly think of, computer science is always involved in helping someone perform a task or keeping track and analyzing data.”

Despite his passion for the subject, Light said he partially grasped the concepts in his classes. That all changed once he started working for the Emerging Technology Center, a self-supported IT business under the umbrella of the Department of Computing at ETSU. It was there that Light got valuable hands-on experience and had the opportunity to work on projects directly related to university functions.

“What has made my ETSU experience unique is being able to learn so much in such a little amount of time,” he said. “I have been given a lot of opportunities from faculty to learn and do new things.”

This summer, Light taught a series of technology camps for middle and high school students offered through a partnership between ETSU and the Niswonger Foundation. Topics ranged from beginner code camps to advanced Java and robotics.

“The robotics camp was one of my favorite ones we did,” he said. “We programmed a microcomputer called an Arduino to send data from the wires to the various components of the robot. There’s a physical connection in writing the code and then watching it in action.”

The technology camps gave Light the opportunity to lead a classroom for the first time and develop part of the curriculum for the advanced Java camp. Each week, he taught middle and high schoolers to see through the eyes of a coder.

“I love the moment when the students are able to see the world the way I see it,” he said.

Light will have the opportunity to continue teaching this fall. As required of his graduate program, he will teach a section of the Using Information Technology course, CSCI 1100, which helps students become more familiar with computer software and e-mail. He’ll also continue working with the Department of Computing’s Student Advisory Board. As president, he works directly with the department chair, Dr. Tony Pittarese, to continually improve the overall experience for computing students at ETSU.

Although he’s still searching for the perfect research topic, Light aims to tackle one of many complicated ideas within network programming and IOT, or the Internet of things. After graduate school, the possibilities are endless, but at the top of his list is doing something that greatly benefits others.

“I want to be able to make a contribution to our field of study and be able to provide something that will give back to the community,” he said. “I feel like that’s the most important thing. Through software and research I hope I can make that kind of contribution.”

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