Kolton Yager, who earned three publishing credits as a student, has been named the College of Engineering’s Outstanding Graduate Student while Allison Zadravecz, who earned a near-perfect GPA while serving as a mentor for younger students, was rewarded with the Academic Excellence distinction.
College of Engineering Dean Amy S. Fleischer recognized the two, along with several other students, during the spring college-wide meeting.
Yager, who is graduating from the blended master’s program with degrees in computer science, was one of three students to accompany Professor Zoë Wood to Malta, south of Sicily, to create reconstructions of shipwrecks and collect data with an automated underwater vehicle.
The team used sonar and GoPro cameras to record data and images.
“It was a unique opportunity to apply the skills I’d developed throughout my time at Cal Poly and have a cross-discipline engineering experience,” said Yager, from Murray, Utah. “The work certainly made me a better computer scientist, and it was the driving force behind my first publication.”
The paper, a product of his work with photogrammetry 3D reconstruction and texture projection, was published on the proceedings of the 15th International Symposium on Visual Computing.
As a student, Yager also served as a teaching assistant and completed multiple internships, including one with DreamWorks Animation, where he worked on the organization’s in-house solution for hair generation and styling.
“Hair probably isn’t the first thing most people think about when it comes to CG movies, but it’s a geometrically complex part of most animated characters,” he said. “If you look, you’ll find DreamWorks’s most recent release, “Trolls: World Tour,” is a particularly hairy movie.”
Yager’s role was to help optimize and improve software for the effects artists.
“Figuring out how to make something run twice as fast is satisfying,” said Yager, who eventually hopes to pursue a doctorate, “but seeing the look on someone’s face when you tell them they get to do half as much waiting is even better.”
Zadravecz finished her studies with the college’s highest GPA — a 3.985 — though she said a high gradepoint wasn’t necessarily her goal when she began her studies as a biomedical engineering student.
“I went into every class I took with the mindset of wanting to put in the maximum effort to really learn and understand the material and get as much out of each class as possible,” she said.
After earning her degree in the fall, she landed a job in the spring as a product development engineer with Meddux Development Corporation in Boulder, Colorado. Meddux is an engineering design and development firm for interventional and minimally invasive surgical devises.
“The Learn by Doing approach that Cal Poly focused on in classes and labs prepared me most for my current job,” she said. “I learned how to be thrown into a task and figure out to complete it in a timely manner.”
As an undergraduate, Zadravecz served as a mentor for the Society of Women Engineers as a way to pass on the knowledge that she had gained.
“It was always rewarding to give advice to a younger student to help guide them through the ups and downs that I remembered experiencing myself,” said Zadravecz, who was a longtime Girl Scout before attending Cal Poly. “I was so thankful for the guidance that I had received from my mentors and recognized their impact on my life, that I wanted to be a similar figure in other people’s lives as well.”
While both Yager and Zadravecz noted Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing ethos, Zadravecz said the university’s location was also a factor in deciding where to attend college.
“I thought that San Luis Obispo would be a great college town, with its close proximity to the beaches and hiking,” said the Glendale, California, native. “When I took tours of the campus and engineering program, I thought that all of the students seemed so helpful and supportive of each other, and I was excited to be a part of the Cal Poly community.”
Other students honored include:
- Cole Pike, CENG Don & Paula Heye Annual Student/Club Safety Award
- Nicole Anderson-Au, Contributions to the Objectives and Public Image of the College
- Paulina Nguyen, Contributions to the Objectives and Public Image of the University
- Daniel De Leon, Service to the Community
- Kira Schmidt, Cal Poly Outstanding Graduate
- Joe Sandoval and Julia Ryan, Diversity and Inclusion Award