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Computer science major builds on BVU legacy

February 23, 2021 4:35pm

Jason Konz had family ties to Buena Vista University (BVU) before he visited campus as a high school student. His mother, Ruth (Portz) Konz, a 1992 BVU graduate, and his sister, Sarah (Konz) Anderson, a 2018 BVU graduate, both studied accounting here.

Jason, of Granville, had an interest in computer science. The professors he met during his visit intensified the personal connection.

“I met Dr. Nathan Backman (Associate Professor of Computer Science) and Dr. Jason Shepherd (Professor of Computer Science and 1999 BVU graduate) on my visit and knew right then that if I wanted to go somewhere, they were going to help me get there,” Jason says.

Jason applied at BVU and earned several scholarships and grants due to his academic performance and civic involvement at Gehlen Catholic High School in Le Mars. BVU’s Legacy Scholarship was a part of his aid package, based on the fact his mother is a BVU alum.

“We’re thrilled anytime the dependent of an alum decides BVU is the place where they’ll best build their future,” says Kristie Spotts, Director of Alumni Engagement. “The Legacy Scholarship is one way in which our alumni and benefactors are helping ensure that BVU impacts multiple generations of Beavers, and, by extension, the businesses and communities in which they make a difference.

Upon his arrival to BVU, Jason continued to build upon his relationship with Backman and Shepherd, a pair of former George Wythe Award winners for teaching excellence at BVU. He also found BVU’s state-of-the-art virtual reality lab to his liking.

Now, as a sophomore, Jason spends hours each week with 2020 Wythe Award winner Dr. Shawn Stone, Professor of Physics and Computer Science. Stone serves as advisor for BVU’s first Robotics Club, which made history on campus in November as it hosted its first sumo-bot competition.

Jason joined five Robotics Club peers in building robots that followed their computer commands in a sumo-wrestling competition. Stone built one as well and participated in the competition.

“We were supposed to compete in a sumo-bot competition in Milwaukee, Wisc., but it was cancelled due to COVID-19,” Stone says. “So, instead, we had members of the Robotics Club build their units and compete internally. After seeing the competition play out, I’m confident our sumo-bots would have competed very well against those from other colleges.”

“The competition was a lot of fun,” Jason adds. “We used the 3-D printer and a modeling tool. We had to think creatively to solve problems. We came up with a number of designs before finding the best way to overcome challenges like weight limitations.”

While Jason contemplates his future, he notes how the Robotics Club and BVU’s computer science instruction have given him much to consider, including a path toward his dream job: designing games for a gaming company called Blizzard. Before then, he plans to intern at Corteva, learning all he can about data informatics.

Jason’s brother-in-law, Luke Anderson, a QCI employee who graduated from BVU in 2015, got Jason started on this trek. “Luke taught me java script when I was a senior in high school,” Jason says. “At my graduation party, Luke and I presented a multi-player air hockey game on a computer that we created together.”

Jason Konz is thankful for the experiences his mother, sister, and brother-in-law enjoyed at BVU. He’s thankful for his opportunity to add to an already robust family legacy.

“There is no limit to what you can do at BVU,” he says. “Teachers support even the craziest ideas and they work to help us students make it happen.”