Arica Christensen Rises to the Challenge

Arica ChristensenRazor team left to right: Jonathan Robinson (CUNY Medgar Evers College), Daniel Kim (Cornell University), Arica Christensen (USD) and Jonathan Bui (University of Maryland).

This summer, Arica Christensen, a rising senior at the University of San Diego studying Industrial and Systems Engineering, was one of 400 interns selected from over 7,000 applicants across the U.S. to participate in Booz Allen Hamilton’s Summer Games internship program.

This competitive program gave interns the opportunity to apply their passions and advanced technical expertise to real-world problems. Over a ten-week period, Arica and her team created an autonomous unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) utilizing edge computing technologies that can be deployed in areas of low GPS signal.

How did you hear about Booz Allen Hamilton’s Summer Games Internship program?

I first heard about the internship through USD’s Career Fair. Booz Allen was at the fair and gave out information about the internship program. I then attended the Society of Women Engineer (SWE) conference in late October. Booz Allen had a booth there as well, staffed with recruiters. I gave my resume to them at the conference and scheduled an interview the following week. Soon after my interview, I received an offer letter and was assigned to the D.C. metro area for 10 weeks, starting on June 5th through August 15th. 

Discuss your assigned project, Razor: Autonomous Navigation and Intelligence at the Edge.

Our challenge was to develop an autonomous ground vehicle equipped with computer vision, artificial intelligence/machine learning, localization and mapping capabilities. All heavyweight processing was handled by an embedded NVIDIA Jetson Nano GPU on the device (edge computing), enabling a minimized radio frequency footprint, while eliminating the requirement for human operators, offsite servers and wireless transmission capabilities in constrained latency-critical environments. 

Key features of the project included developing an interior map of an unknown environment using LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), detecting obstacles, objects and people of interest within this environment using machine learning, and recommending the best path to identified objects using graph algorithms. We envision taking this technology and hardware and applying it to any type of model — such as devising the best path recommendation to find an explosive device to take soldiers out of harm’s way or applications in search and recovery in natural disaster areas. 

This internship project, in turn, will help Booz Allen to formulate use cases to further develop edge computing opportunities in the future. 

How did your participation in the Summer Games internship help to foster your academic and professional growth?

I initially didn’t know what to expect from the internship. A couple of months before the internship, I received an email outlining the details of my project and quickly realized I had a lot to learn in the areas of technologies we were going to be using. I was teamed with three other interns from different majors, backgrounds and schools — including Industrial Labor Relations, Computer Science and Information Systems. It was a dynamic team which enabled us to bring our corresponding strengths to the team. 

We were assigned to the project with technical leaders to connect us with the available resources and support to tackle the problem. I was assigned to the Strategic Innovation Group Analytics account alignment. They created a baseline for our project. 

It was a great experience, definitely challenging — in a good way. We got the opportunity to learn new technologies and skills and got a taste of true interdisciplinary teamwork. We also stepped up our business skills. Getting feedback from all leadership presentations throughout the summer helped us to apply critical changes to our project to ensure it was the best we could make it. We also worked closely with our team leaders and took their advice to make sure we were improving and learning every day. 

USD’s liberal arts focus, combined with my dual degree and student organization participation, prepared me for this, as I was more comfortable with networking and public speaking than many of my peers. 

I am proud to say that our Razor team made it to the top 10 presentations out of 81 intern teams. 

Would you consider a career in consulting?

I was really intrigued about consulting as a career path as a result of this internship. Until now, I had never considered it, in fact, I didn’t know what it was. I like the dynamics of this opportunity and I am now more open to it. 

Booz Allen continues to follow up, giving weekly webinar sessions and panel sessions. They gave us networking sessions on what type of people they are looking for down the road and to find our best fit. Hopefully for us seniors, we can fit in at Booz Allen Hamilton after graduating.

What advice would you give to students thinking of applying for the internship next summer?

I can say that overall it was an amazing experience that brought me out of my comfort zone and taught me a lot about my strengths. 

For those considering applying for the internship, be brave! Be proactive. Learn all of the new skills you can, not just those within your major. Focus on things you think are helpful or interesting. It’s okay to not know everything and be willing to admit that to yourself. If you don’t have the answer, the person next to you does. The more you collaborate with your team members and leaders you will go farther. 

As they say, “Stand on the shoulders of giants.” I was supported by so many people throughout my internship and I know my team and I wouldn’t have made it to the top 10 without our challenge leaders.

— by Michelle Sztupkay in collaboration with Booz Allen

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