Master of Computing student Mengqing Wang (Mai) attempted to battle this very question during her internship at the Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) office.
Selva Murugesan Senior Director, Innovation and Data Analytics at TCCS, oversaw Mai for the 12 weeks of her internship.
Selva said that Mai’s project was focused on identifying and quantifying areas of congestion on sections of Canberra roads.
“Mai undertook a project to understand the transport bottleneck in various parts of our bus network. There’s a particular section of the road where it’s always congested. We have the anecdotal evidence, but we don’t have anything to quantify it,” said Selva.
The research that Mai conducted has had a real impact on the organisation deliverables - and by extension had impact on the lives of everyday Canberrans who will be able to enjoy an improved bus route.
“The Directorate now has a solid business case that is being drafted based on Mai’s assignment. They’re going to put forward a few recommendations to actually solve the problem. One thing that was put forward was having a dedicated bus lane – if that’s not possible we could change the traffic signals” said Selva.
Mai said that the Computer Science Internship program was a big confidence boost for her, and taught her invaluable skills about functioning in a workplace.
“The program is a really great opportunity to experience a real business atmosphere.”
Coming from overseas, Mai said it can be harder to access opportunities to gain work experience, “for the international students, it’s a bit harder for us to find a job in another country. It’s good for us to complete an internship to get some experience”.
Working in a real life business environment gave Mai an insight into the differences between university and the workplace, and how to juggle the expectations of both during the internship. Students who participate in the program get half a semesters worth of course credit for their internship.
“The assessment in school and the workplace is totally different. In school we have three audits and a criteria assessment. In the Directorate the end of the internship doesn’t mean the end of the work. We actually want to deliver a product to the host that can be of value to their business in the future.”
Furui Gong is another student who undertook the internship program at the same time as Mai. He was at Access Canberra, working on creating an app-based version of the logbook that learner driver’s use.
He said the internship really helped with his communication skills.
“I think for me, the best part was the courage and the confidence. I was initially a bit nervous, but I found that after I initially survived it, and now I can present my idea more confidently. For me, the best part was getting real world experience with the programming, and interacting with different stakeholders to gather their requirements. Through that process you can really build a connection with them,” said Furui.
“Because it’s only two days a week for a short 12 weeks, they are able to get a taste for how a business operates, and what are the expectations. More importantly, they figure out what is the value add they bring to the organisation. So it’s a very good experience for the students as well, and it could be a stepping stone for bigger opportunities”.
The Research School of Computer Science offers the internship program for students in their later years of study.