UCI Gets a Google Boos-t
That was the first thing UC Irvine’s 2013 Google Student Ambassador Kyle Boos said to me in our interview, and while he was simply pronouncing his last name, I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit. As he said it he nodded slowly, indicating, in an exhausted sort of way, that he indeed understood why people think it’s funny.
He traveled to the interview by skateboard, plays on UC Irvine’s roller hockey club team, and holds a conversation very well. That being said, the senior from San Marcos doesn’t quite fit the stereotypical “computer science major” profile; what stands out most about Boos is that he is a really nice guy who fully encompasses Google’s “don’t be evil” mantra and genuinely wants to make the lives of his fellow UCI students a bit more convenient. As a Google Student Ambassador, this is his main goal.
UCI is already a Google-friendly campus, having integrated its webmail system with Gmail. This provides each student here at UCI with access to Google Apps for Education, an arsenal of handy services. These include Google+ Hangouts; a website building program called Google Sites; and Google Docs, a document and spreadsheet program similar to Microsoft Office but with a social forum aspect, making it more conducive to a collaborative environment.
For Boos, the problem is that not many UCI students are using these services, and many may not even be aware that they exist.
“At UCI, Google — I think more than anything — just needs to get marketed,” Boos said. “We have Google Apps for Education, and we have those services, but not a lot of students know about it. You’re somewhat missing out if you’re not kind of aware that you have these resources at your disposal.”
Boos believes that if more club presidents and student organizations could implement some of these features, the results would be entirely beneficial.
In addition to hyping the many features of Google at UCI, Boos acts as a liaison between the company and UCI. What’s exciting about this link to Google is that it goes both ways. In Boos, UCI students now have a voice that can be heard all the way up in Mountain View.
“If you ever have any kind of feedback with any services, because I have a team back at Google, I can personally share your request. If anyone at UCI has anything they’d want to bring to my attention or Google’s attention, I can be like the middle man.”
Boos’ position requires exceptional communication skills. In fact, at UCI’s Winter 2012 AppJam contest, first place went to an app called AwkTalk, which facilitated timed conversations between two people and was described by the design team as a potential solution to the fact that “many of our colleagues in the fields of computer science and engineering (ourselves included) lack excellent social skills.” Second place winner at that year’s AppJam went to an app titled Learn UCI, which was designed in part by Boos. It was during the weeklong competition that Boos recalls realizing his passion for computer science.
“Funny thing is, I had no programming or computer science experience at all going into college,” Boos said. “It was something that was interesting to me, but I was completely lost in terms of how programs work. I thought I’d just go for it and ended up liking it a lot.”
Learn UCI, or LUCI, is an intuitive augmented reality app designed to fulfill the role of a campus orientation guide in a smartphone. LUCI takes students on a tour of the UCI campus, and when the user reaches a building, a dialogue box opens with information on the departments housed in the building, what kind of food is available inside (if any), and other relevant information any new student can use.
“We felt as though we could’ve won,” Boos said. “It was a lot of work to put everything in the database. We were struggling to even get it done, let alone fill up the entire campus. During that time is when I kind of realized this was something that I really liked and wanted to keep doing.”
Boos’ knowledge of technology and connection to Google, combined with his genuine approachability, makes him a walking resource for UCI students. Throughout the year he plans to host workshops and events, including a seminar on how to use Google Sites which will enable “everyone [to] walk out with a website built.” And of course there’ll be free stuff and free food.
Despite his impressive title as Google Student Ambassador, which Boos himself admitted is a bit intimidating, he remains humble and hopes UCI students will utilize him as a resource.
“I’m really a friendly guy. I have no problem with people reaching out to me; I don’t consider myself some godly student or anything like that. Facebook, email, if you see me on campus; feel free to say something.”
Kyle Boos just wants to hangout — on Google or in real life.