STEM CONNECT: Exploring how computer science can improve society

Santiago Giraldo. Photo credit: Craig Chandler, University Communication
Santiago Giraldo. Photo credit: Craig Chandler, University Communication

by Tori Pedersen | Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education

Santiago Giraldo moved to the United States when he was in the fourth grade, knowing no English.

From that point on, technology played a significant role in Giraldo’s life.

“I had the opportunity to use an iPad to translate my conversations with teachers and friends. This made me realize how much technology is able to help make people’s lives easier and help those in need of special assistance,” Giraldo said.

Giraldo, whose family moved from Medellin, Colombia, to Cambridge, Nebraska, graduated from Cambridge High School. He decided to pursue a degree in computer science at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in Fall 2020 and explore more of what technology can do to make a positive impact on society.

Giraldo is a member of Nebraska’s second cohort of STEM CONNECT Scholars, a grant funded by the National Science Foundation. The STEM CONNECT Scholarship program gives students who choose a STEM major the chance to work closely with faculty and peer mentors and join a community of students who share an interest in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Currently, 27 students at Nebraska, 12 at Southeast Community College and nine at Western Nebraska Community College have STEM CONNECT scholarships.

After discovering his interest in technology by exploring the iPad, Giraldo began purchasing other Apple products, and his curiosity grew. He became fascinated with understanding the intricacies of these devices and turned to YouTube to learn more about the software and hardware.

“A vivid memory I have with software releases is impatiently waiting for it to release and skipping recess in the 6th grade in order to get the iOS update and try it out as soon as possible,” Giraldo said.

His UNL classes have given him a better look at the process of designing and building technology, and this experience has furthered his interest in computer science and developed a deeper respect for the work of software engineers.

Giraldo said he hopes to be able to work for Apple in the future. Specifically, he wants to focus his career efforts on artificial intelligence or possibly automation.

Most importantly, he said he wants his work to “better the lives of those around me and use my skills to make others’ lives just a little bit simpler and a little happier.”

About the author: This feature on Santiago Giraldo was written by Tori Pedersen, a UNL junior majoring in agricultural leadership and education. She is working in the CSMCE as the communications associate.

Read more about the STEM CONNECT Scholars