"Gold mining" in Silicon Valley

Shuyee Chen

Sixteen students from the Department of Computer Science (CS) participated in the department’s 10-day study tour to America’s Silicon Valley, 30 May to 8 June. After returning to Hong Kong, they have been busy writing reports, preparing and organizing a sharing session, putting together a photo gallery and video editing. They are now compiling their Study Tour of Silicon Valley 2004, a publication that will record their fruitful experience – from pre-tour preparation to on-tour activities. They are also preparing a live, multi-media presentation for CityU’s Orientation Day.

 Miss Florence Mong, CS Associate Professor and one of the tour coaches, said,“The students learned a lot from the trip. But they learn even more from the post-tour work, which allows them to reflect on and consolidate what they have observed and experienced during the trip.”

Believing that “walking a mile is better than reading a pile,” CS initiated its “Technology Diversity Scheme” in 2002, to enhance students’ learning experiences and personal development. Following the success of its pilot tour to Australia in June 2002 and another study tour to Beijing in January 2004, the Department felt confident in continuing the Scheme this summer.

San Francisco’s Bay Area is the place where tremendous high-tech products are born and advanced research is carried out,” said Dr Duncan Wong, Assistant Professor of the CS and tour coach. “For all of us, the trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

During the ten-day tour, the students visited high-tech corporations and leading universities involved in computer science research, including the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, Silicon Graphics, Inc, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Pixar Animation Studios and Sun Microsystems. “Through our visits and sharing with the professionals and students there, I learned so much about cutting-edge technologies and research in companies and universities,” said Alan Ho, a final-year BSc(H) CS student. “More importantly, I learned that it’s all made possible by innovative minds, enthusiasm and a lot of hard work. The people I met there set very good examples for me,” he added.

 Cora Chang, a third-year BSc(H) CS student compiling of the Study Tour report, is particularly taken with the theme. “We plan to use the metaphor of ‘gold mining’ as the theme of our report and experience,” she said. Like many other participants, she believes that the gold mines of their tour are not simply places they visited but experiences that will stay with them.“To most of us, the city, the computer companies and the universities we visited are like gold mines. Through our `gold mining`, we become more mature and find treasure both in the world and in our hearts.”  

Thanks to its success over the past two years, the CS “Technology Diversity Scheme” succeeded in securing outside sponsorship for the California trip. Apart from Departmental funds, the Study Tour of Silicon Valley was also sponsored by CityU’s Quality Campus Life Fund and the Commerce, Industry and Technology Bureau, HKSAR. The sponsorships sought covered a total of 80% of the students' expenses.