Student enjoys programming but not the spotlight

By Shellie Smitley | Staff Writer

Thomas Crute, chair of the Chemistry and Physics Department, said Michael Roeber is a serious and talented workhorse that gets a lot done.

Roeber, computer science major, is leading the way on a project in cooperation with the Biology Department. Faculty and students are studying the Satilla River in Southern Georgia. He is instrumental in helping to develop the project called The GPS Floaty Thing, according to Physics Professor, Andy Hauger.

Hauger said he credits Roeber with leading a summer intern program. He was a vital part of developing the electronics for a project in cooperation with Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy that involved rain gauges used throughout the county to measure rainfall. The gauges are equipped with sensors.

“He (Roeber) is very good,” Hauger, said. “I mean this guy is great. He is good at the electronics and the computing side and is very interested in the sort of the engineering side, the inter-disciplinary side and all that. (He is) just a really great student.”

Physics major Courtney Morrison said Roeber is an extremely diligent person who is always working on something in the lab. She said when he hits a road block he keeps working at it until he gets through it. She said he is not one to give up.

“That is very evident in the things that he has been able to produce in (the lab). He is a pretty awesome guy and I have learned a lot from him,” said Morrison.

Morrison said she would describe Roeber as very funny, honest, and quiet, but very open to teaching others. She said he is a good teacher and is always willing to help out.

When asked how he would describe his own personality, Roeber said with a pained look on his face, “I don’t know that I ever would.”

His humility was evident as he said that he does not take credit for being a leader on any of the projects that he has worked on.

“Well, I don’t think that it needs to be put in terms of who is leading a project,” Roeber said after a long thoughtful pause. “Everyone who chooses to participate really takes on what they can and delivers what they are able to… I know I’ve gone to a couple students because I never worked with a GPS before and I was able to say, ‘I need to know how this works’ and they were happy to show me.”

Roeber said the electronic contribution for the projects come from the Physics Department. The Biology Department are researchers that know what information they need and then the computer science aspect is moving the wiring from the circuits. He said it is a computer program that is written that tells the micro-controller what it needs to do with the readings it is getting from the sensors.

“The College of Science and Mathematics is committed to providing an undergraduate experience promoting scientific inquiry and discovery and is also dedicated to creating opportunities for intellectual growth and community involvement,” according to GRU.edu

Roeber credits other people for the knowledge that he has and contributes to the projects.

“Dr. Hauger knows a lot about the sensors that we are using,” Roeber said. “The knowledge in computer programming really comes from the CS Department, it is a great place…My dad has also helped out a lot…He’s an electrical engineer. So I have had some help, so I don’t want to try to take the credit or try to sound like I know everything walking in.”

Even after being asked about projects that Roeber works on outside of class, he said he would not brag on anything that he has done.  However, he said his life outside of school includes growing up as “an army brat.” His father, Rodney, is a retired Lieutenant Colonel. His mother Kathy is a homemaker.

“She has been very supportive of everything I have been working on,” Roeber said.

He said he has a brother named Jonathan, 26, who is currently in the Air Force.

Roeber, who is now 30 years old, said he spent four years himself in the Air Force after high school and worked as an Arabic linguist. He was deployed to Iraq for six months.

“I haven’t seen, maybe been in a place, where people were more focused on getting a job done well before or since then,” Roeber said. “Everybody was a 100 percent working on their assigned tasks.”

Roeber said he has a couple of cats and a parrot but threw his head back with a pain staking look on his face when faced with giving up the name of his cats.

“I would rather not say,” Roeber said.

He said he is an additional degree student and that he previously earned a degree in Middle Eastern Studies.  

“At the time I really enjoyed Middle Eastern Studies, I guess I hit a point where I felt like I wanted to get a better feel for technology,” Roeber said. “I wanted to learn about computer programming.”

He said he hopes to gain enough knowledge in the future to enable him to teach. He says he considers programming to be his hobby outside of school as well. He feels that he is in a lucky spot right now because he is doing things that he enjoys and people like to see.  

“I guess that I could say that I really have enjoyed coming back to school here (GRU). I think that it has been a great experience,” Roeber said. “It was the right decision to make. I probably have days that are as long now as they ever have been, but I really enjoy what I am doing and I look forward to waking up every day.”

Morrison said Roeber does not ever seem to have a bad day and if he does, he does not show it.

Roeber enjoys what he is doing at GRU but Hauger said Roeber does not enjoy being in the spotlight.

“Yeah, that’s pretty true,” Roeber said.

Contact Shellie Smitley at: sbarb@gru.edu

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