Interview with Jacob Nazarenko

1.       Quick Introduction of yourself

A: I am Jacob, and I’m a first-year student here at University of Toronto studying Computer Science. I am from a little town just north of Boston, MA, US. I went to Boston University Academy, a private school in Boston located on the Boston University campus, where students get to take Boston University courses, so I came to university with some course credits and experience in programming.


2.       Why would you want to join aUToronto?

A: I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to be one of the first high school students to participate in the “MIT Beaver Works Summer Institute” in the summer of 2016.  This is a brand new program that connects MIT and Lincoln Labs faculty and staff with high school students to collaborate on an autonomous systems project. What I was doing is programming little remote control race cars with lots of sensors mounted on them to allow them to drive autonomously. So I really became inspired to go into the area of autonomous vehicles through this program. The cool thing I heard about aUToronto is that this club is basically doing exactly what one of the program directors, MIT professor Sertac Karaman, participated in himself, which was the DARPA Urban Challenge. I am really passionate about this, and am hoping to go into this area.


3.       What are your major tasks in the team? How do you like the team dynamic so far?

A: There is so much stuff to do on this vehicle. Even though aUToronto has all these different groups, each group still has a lot of work to do. So far I have been working on the center line planning functionality, which is how the car will determine the center of a lane, and am currently implementing the ROS program that will determine which way to direct the car for some distance in front of it when it receives data about lanes. I am looking forward to what will come next, and I’m sure it’ll only get more and more exciting as time goes on.

The team dynamic is great, with some very friendly people. I can see lots of collaboration going on between great minds. There are many passionate graduate and upper-year students on this team, and I feel that I can really learn a lot from them. It is a little bit intimidating to be one of the only first year students on the team, but this is made better by the fact that people are willing to work with me and explain things to me.


4.       What is your biggest goal within the team?

A: I think the cool thing is that as a first year student in the team, and knowing that the team has a competition that will go on for three years, I can hopefully stick with the team throughout these years. During this time, I can not only increase my knowledge in this field, but also provide even more help when I do take a course, say on Computer Vision or Machine Learning, later on.