In a technology-driven world, Dr. Steven Case is a bit of an anomaly. As academic coordinator for the Doctor of Information Technology (DIT) program, Case can talk algorithms and microchips with the best in the industry. But what sets him apart is his perspective on the positive changes made possible by technology rather than simply the engineering behind it.
Case has a broad background ranging from developing the real-time operating system for the F-14D aircraft to mentoring high school robotics teams in Florida. We talked to Case about what drives him and what’s next in IT.
Who is usually drawn to the DIT program?
Students in Walden’s DIT program reflect a broad range of cultures and experience, most with a rich technical background. A quarter of the students are from outside the U.S., and we’re seeing a lot more women in the program than in the IT world at large. We have quite a few students performing research that has a broader perspective than just IT, such as improving their local economy or positively impacting healthcare.
What does the future of IT look like?
When I first started, the focus was on the technology. Now the focus, appropriately, is on how IT can improve people’s lives. That’s what draws me into it. If someone can imagine a new application, there’s someone else who can figure out how to do it. That’s what’s so exciting. The field and the future are only limited by people’s ideas.
Do you see interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)-related careers increasing?
I do, but I have a bias and passion for computer-related fields. The challenge is to reach out to young people who think STEM opportunities aren’t available to them, or they can’t do it. My job is to show them they’re available, and they can.
You’ve worked with students in robotics competitions. What kind of robots were they developing?
Each year’s competition challenges the students to solve a predefined problem. One year the challenge was to simulate a robot to deliver resources and return waste from a space station. Another was developing a robot to gather components and assemble a wind energy generator. The challenges gave students a broad perspective of more than just building a robot.
Is a technical background required to go into it?
I had an experience with a student who wanted to be involved with the robotics team at her school, but she wasn’t interested in technology. She was a photographer, so she volunteered to take photos of the team’s development process. She was the only person to see every step of the development and soon became the one student who really understood the school’s complete solution. The next year, she became the school’s robotics team lead. There’s much more to STEM than just the technical part.
What do you do for fun?
My wife and I have a sailboat and do a fair amount of sailing. I’ve been spending time restoring the boat, including replacing the diesel engine with an electric engine that will run from solar panels. For me, it always comes back to technology. It’s always an adventure.