YC Computer Students Work with AdaCore and SPARK
On Friday, February 15, 2019, students in the Yeshiva College computer science program met with engineers from AdaCore, a global company that helps clients build high-integrity software. The workshop centered on SPARK Ada, a programming language that enhances Ada’s core purpose of producing code for situations that require a high degree of reliability with SPARK’s capacity for ensuring code that is bug-free before it is deployed.
According to Jessie Glockner, AdaCore’s GNAT Academic Program (GAP) coodinator, the workshop with YU students was a first for them.
“Our engineers don’t typically teach undergraduate classes as part of our GAP program,” said Glockner, “but the on-site hackathon at Yeshiva, arranged through Judah Diament, the chair of the department, and Ed Schonberg, AdaCore vice president, brought in Rob Tice, technical account manager, and Albert Lee, senior software engineer, to work with the students on a defined challenge.”
The first half of the session involved an introduction to the Ada and SPARK programming languages as well as instruction on how to write bug-free code. The second half of the session was the hackathon, where students were tasked with applying what they had learned to enable two Microbits to talk to each other over a radio link. (A Microbit is an open source hardware ARM-based embedded system that was designed by the BBC for use in computer education in the UK.)
“Using SPARK Ada, software developers can develop code where theory and practice have been proven to be the same,” said Lee. “It is astonishingly state-of-the-art, and we were excited to introduce the language, tools and concepts to the students at the YC hackathon.”
Isaac Scheinman ’20YC, who is double majoring in mathematics and the distributed systems track in computer science, found the hackathon very exciting and rewarding. “Ada is very important for any person who might want to work in any field where security and reliability is extremely important,” said Scheinman, “and the workshop is right in line with what the department is doing to prepare us for being good computer scientists. All my professors really understand the material they are teaching, and all have very impressive real-world experience that they are able to impart.”
For Diament, the value of workshops with companies like AdaCore lies in the fact that they “expose students to tools for industries and applications other than internet tech companies and financial firms and give them opportunities to work with trainers and engineers in an area of computer science to which they otherwise wouldn’t be exposed.”
Glockner agrees. “AdaCore and the larger Ada community are passionate about promoting the development of reliable, high-integrity software. We believe that students exposed to Ada and SPARK at an early stage of their career become more skilled and principled programmers, and by encouraging safe and secure programming in academia, we hope to promote sound software engineering principles that will push industries forward.”