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When Computer Science and Theatre Mix

Laurence Ruberl ’20 hopes that studying Computer Science and Theatre Arts is the perfect combination to allow him to return to work at NASA.

While stage-managing a show nearly three years ago, he brought his two interests together when he was inspired to create SMHub, a web application aimed at simplifying and digitizing the gathering and sharing of information for stage managers. The app will serve as a hub for everything about a production that goes through the stage manager, including deadlines, reports, construction schedules, rehearsal and performance schedules, light and sound cues, and actor line notes.

Ruberl has completed the actor line notes component, and it has been used in six shows at Earlham. Stage managers use line notes to record deviations from the script: “You said ‘to thine own self in two’ and the line is ‘to thine own self be true.’” Traditionally, actor line notes are written on slips of paper that are difficult to keep track of for the actors and assistant stage manager. SMHub compiles the notes and directs them to the individual actors.

He spent part of the summer expanding SMHub and hopes to complete the process by the end of the academic year.

“If I didn’t do all the 15 other things I do in my spare time I would get more things done,” he says. “I do like to be busy.”

He is a founding member of COSMOS, the Collection of Students Meeting for Outer Space, and founding convener of Society for Physics Students. He’s directing the Poe Project as his senior capstone, and he’s a member of the Computer Science Systems Administrators Applied Science Group.

This summer he earned a spot in the Indiana-based XTERN program, which places students with a high-growth tech company for a 10-week internship over the summer. Ruberl’s opportunity through XTERN was to work for CleanSlate Technology Group on a project for Indy Steel Erectors. In addition to making website improvements, he worked on a document management application.

As part of Earlham’s EPIC Advantage program, he toured Earlham’s production of “The Misadventures of Martin Hathaway” at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. “Touring a show was a good experience,” he says. “But the coolest part was seeing a large variety of shows. I saw 15 shows, and nine were musicals. There was a huge variety. There were 4,000 to 5,000 acts set up in churches, bars, theaters, outdoor spaces — anywhere you can set up a show. It was super cool, and Scotland is dope.”

The “crown jewel” of his resume, however, is his NASA experience. In the summer of 2018, he took part in a web development internship at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “It’s the reason I got the XTERN program this summer, and it dictates what I want to do with my life after graduation.”

At NASA, Ruberl worked on a web application that could take in data, save it to a database in a way that users could query what they want and then get it as a PowerPoint.

“Being in proximity to so much cool stuff and getting to meet famous people was super cool,” he says. “The Hubble Space Telescope is run out of Goddard. It’s controlled and monitored from Goddard. I got to see NASA’s computing cluster. I was in awe.”

He also met four famous people: John Mather, NASA’s only Nobel Laureate: Michael Okuda and his wife Denise Okuda, who both worked on Star Trek series, one of Ruberl’s favorites; and Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator.

“I’ve been interested in space my entire life,” he says. “Dad worked at Swales Aerospace. We would go to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., and he’s able to point at several satellites, engineered models, and say I helped build that.

“I’ve learned that the private sector is more about making money no matter the cost. Government’s job is to help its people and to keep its people safe, not to make money. That’s why I want to work in government.”

Computer science and theatre arts have worked well to prepare him for such a career.

“Theater gives me leadership and organizational skills with people with disparate skill sets and personalities, and computer science people get technical skills,” he says. “People say I’m far more eloquent and outgoing than other people in computer science. Even though I’m not an actor, theater has grown my public speaking skills.”

Ruberl says he visited Earlham as a prospective student three times and fell in love with the people each time.

“Prospective student events here are geared more toward getting to know your peers rather than focusing on the programs,” he says. “They were structured way more personal than any other prospective events I attended.

“And two days after I came back, I received my acceptance letter.”

Laurence Ruberl

Laurence Ruberl 2020

Hometown: Bethesda, Maryland

Major at Earlham: Theatre Arts and Computer Science

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