Cody Carlton had never taken a course in computer science before arriving at college. But he decided to try programming in his freshman year at Stanford University and ended up taking three CS classes. Now a rising sophomore, he’s thinking about majoring in either computer science or management science and engineering. Home for Carlton is Fort Collins, Colorado, where he grew up loving the outdoors and where he’s returned this summer to intern at HP Labs’ Fort Collins outpost. “Both the Rocky Mountains and HP are ten minutes from my house,” he says, “so it’s worked out pretty well.”
HP: So what are you working on at HP Labs this summer?
I’m working on a couple of projects in the Print and 3D Lab. My primary project is on progressive QR codes. These have a 2D black and white bar code, plus information encoded in color – and then those colors also change over time. You can encode something like a serial number into the bar code to track an object as it moves around. Then you can put color into the white spaces in the code to relay other information, like whether or not the item has been tested, and then change the color as it moves through the manufacturing or delivery process. I’m writing code that will read black and white bar codes and then map where the colors are as they change over time.
HP: What’s the main challenge there?
The main thing is that each bar code is unique – it’s not like we have the same white space to place the colors in each time. So we have to figure out how to work with that variable space. By the end of the summer, I hope to be able to read any QR code, add color to it, and then read it again as color is added over time.
HP: What’s your other project?
It’s about linking any HP product that has a bar code to different kinds of data. HP keeps track of things like sustainability and the labor conditions under which products are manufactured, but it’s not all in one place. This would allow customers to take any individual item we manufacture and use something like an app to find out what material it’s made of, say, or what kind of labor conditions it was made under, or where it was made.
HP: How are you enjoying working with HP Labs engineers?
It’s cool learning from them because everyone around here has a ton of experience. I’ve just been studying computer science for a year and they’ve been doing it for decades. I like talking with them about research in industry and how it compares with what I’ve learned in school. And it’s interesting to see how they approach open problems where there’s no guideline written up for solving them.
HP: Has being at HP Labs changed how you are thinking about your career?
I still feel like I have a lot to learn, but this is definitely great exposure to a real world environment. For one thing, I’m seeing how computer science is applied to things that are more applicable to a business setting than you usually come across in college.
HP: What else are you passionate about outside of technology and enjoying the outdoors?
Starting in high school, I’ve been passionate about doing education work around sexual violence and situations like bystander intervention. I volunteered with a team from a local advocacy center, touring schools and colleges and meeting with other special interest groups to talk about the issue. And then in college I’ve been working with a group that’s putting together a curriculum to educate freshmen - helping them understand what contributes to sexual violence and what resources are available to help them work together to prevent it.