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Exploring Netflix and software engineering

posted: Fri, Dec 8th, 2017

Dr. Steve Atkinson, senior software engineer at Netflix, answers a questioned posed by Maggie Faustino as MOMS library media specialist David Eisenberg looks on

MOMS students recently peeked behind the curtain and spoke directly with the wizard (well, one of them) controlling part of the technological world they interact with every day. The sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders Skyped with Dr. Steve Atkinson, senior software engineer at Netflix and one of the first software engineers to help build LinkedIn.

The students asked about the methods that Netflix uses to customize individual t.v. and movie recommendations to each of its 110 million worldwide subscribers as well as the computer horsepower required to run the site and stream the content.

Dr. Atkinson also spoke about his early experiences working in a computer repair shop, the unique corporate culture at Netflix, and the types of coding and debugging he’s typically involved with.

David Eisenberg, the school’s library media specialist, recently completed a graduate course taught by Dr. Atkinson and asked him to speak with students.

“I thought this would be a good experience because he has incredible technical skills and is very charismatic,” said Mr. Eisenberg of his former professor. “It’s a really rare opportunity for students to meet someone working at such a high level of one of the biggest tech companies in the world. In our schools, we put such a strong emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math skills and this showed kids the real-world value of what they’re learning. It gave them an idea of one of the careers out there and what an impact it can make.”

The Skype conversation, which was held in the library, began with a demonstration of the programming done by several students for one of the school’s NAO humanoid robots. Working closely with Mr. Eisenberg, the students programmed the robot to introduce itself to Dr. Atkinson and ask about getting a job at Netflix. The robot also referenced “Stranger Things,” Netflix’s hit sci-fi adventure series now in its second season.

Most of the students that attended were from the gifted and talented program, the afterschool ASPIRE enrichment program, or Mr. Eisenberg’s tech and media classes.

Mount Olive Middle School
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