Marcos, Mariah, Michelle & Piradon

Michelle Crawley, Mariah Molenaer, Marcos Barbieri and Piradon Liengtiraphan were selected for the Best of Solutions Award for the IBM TechConnect 2016. According to Molenaer, the projects being presented and displayed “outlined accomplishments in technical innovation, improvements, and enhancements.”

The team of Molenaer, Crawley, Barbieri and Liengtiraphan as well as another group from the IBM Joint Study were the only academic teams. They competed against full time employees working in the industry for at least five years.

Molenaer, a senior majoring in information technology, did not realize what she wanted to do in college until freshman year. She was “always pretty good” with computers, so she thought: Why not give this a shot?

Four years later, Molenaer would not have it any other way. “It was pretty cool that our work was selected as the best in our category,” Molenaer said. “It just goes to show how meaningful and relevant the work is that we are doing in the Joint Study.” When Crawley was two years old, her father, who majored in engineering in college, taught her how to use a computer. She excelled in her computer classes in school and knew she wanted to major in computer science after taking a programming class.

Winning at the IBM Joint Study felt “awesome” to her. She was new to the IBM Joint Study, but said she was glad to have the ability to work with her colleagues leading up to the conference. “Their intelligence is very inspiring, and it really motivated me to work hard on my own projects.”

“The process was very humbling,” Crawley said. “I learned that there is so much more to what we are taught in classes, and that if we truly want to make a mark in this field, we must focus on self-discipline and strive to reach beyond the boundaries around us.”

Barbieri, a junior computer science major, found himself drawn toward the field of computer science during his senior year of high school. “I realized that I wanted to become great at something that is not only prevalent in our world today, but something that, at the time, I knew nothing about,” he said. “I think the excitement of learning something completely new was what drew me toward the field. Computer science was the entirely new spectrum that totally changed the way I think about problems.”

However, what most people don’t know about him is his self-proclaimed intense love/hate relationship with computers. “About 90% of my time in front of a screen is spent pulling my hair out over a problem,” Barbieri explained. “And the other 10% is feeling on top of the world after solving a problem. This may sound like a ratio but trust me, the 10% definitely overpowers the 90%.”

For him, presenting at the TechConnect taught him that being confident and truly wanting to deliver the information in a presentation is a crucial part in every field. “Working with not only our IBM TechConnect group, but with the entire IBM Joint Study faculty and staff has been a blessing,” Barbieri said. “Prior to the IBM TechConnect meet-up, our entire group was incredibly nervous about presenting all the work we put into our projects. When we found out that our presentation won in our category, we were all extremely psyched.”

Barbieri feels that it is vital for people to be familiar with computers and not only software, but hardware as well. “Change is scary, I know, but it is incredible how much more efficiently daily tasks can be completed with a knowledge of computers, and this is just at a basic Google-search level,” he said. “Studying computer science adds an entire layer of possibility. Thinking about things abstractly not only helps you see the bigger picture, but it helps you understand a wider variety of problems and potentially how to solve them.”

“Everyone in the Joint Study has had a hand in contributing little parts to an overall bigger project that we’ve been working on, called the NSF SecureCloud Project,” Molenaer said. “It’s been a great experience to get to work and collaborate with a group of highly intelligent students and professors.”

For Crawley, she enjoyed not only the IBM Joint Study experience but also the experience of learning all about technology during her three years at Marist. She believes that everyone should have at least a basic knowledge of how computers work and programming experience. “The world is obviously heavily dependent on technology and computers, and it is incredibly important to be aware of technology for numerous reasons, such as job security,” she said.

The most important reason to study technology, Crawley said, is for safety. “We are putting more and more of our lives online without understanding how our devices work, and criminals exploit that,” she explained. “If we acknowledge these implications instead of ignoring them, the cyber-world would be a much safer place.”


Following graduation, Molenaer will be working for IBM in Poughkeepsie as a systems test engineer. Barbieri is hoping to gain field experience in the industry and then teach computer science at the college level. Crawley is wavering between whether or not to pursue the 5-year B.S./M.S. program at Marist.