Small Company Internship Awards foster mutually beneficial partnerships

February 5, 2020

Assam Alzookery (‘18 B.S.) hired a UM-Dearborn student intern for his small business, Intvo, with funding from the Michigan Economic Development Program.

Assam Alzookery and Stuart Castle
Assam Alzookery and Stuart Castle
Assam Alzookery ('18 B.S.) (left) and Stuart Castle at Intvo’s Ann Arbor Office

Small Business Engagement
Small businesses are major contributors to the strength of the economy in southeast Michigan. The Small Company Internship Award (SCIA) program provides funding to help small businesses hire university students to work as interns on projects that are both beneficial to the company and academically relevant to the student. Thanks to the partnership funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), a 1:1 salary match was provided to the companies to hire UM-Dearborn students for an internship.

In the summer of 2019, ten students from across UM-Dearborn were selected to participate in the SCIA program. 

Intvo is a software engineering company started by UM-Dearborn alumnus Assam Alzookery (‘18 B.S.). Intvo aims to understand and predict pedestrian behavior in the context of autonomous cars and fleet- vehicles. One of the barriers to the adoption of autonomous vehicles is the failure of sensor technology to predict human behavior and modify vehicle operation or alert the driver to ensure safety. Intvo breaks down those barriers via image processing and risk analysis. The company accepted UM-Dearborn student Stuart Castle as a SCIA intern this summer. 

The Business Engagement Center had an opportunity to speak with Castle and Alzookery to learn more about their experiences.

Stuart Castle, Intern:

Will you describe what your experience was like interning at Intvo?
I’m a software engineer with the company, my role is to ensure the technology can run on specific hardware, making sure that the algorithm is detecting the right amount behaviors and actions of the pedestrians. I assess whether the risk level is appropriate for certain pedestrian and motor vehicle interactive scenarios. I do this by running a very high level detection algorithm through a model, then run it through different devices, depending on each scenario. I’ve learned to be very innovative in working with the algorithm and how to effectively and efficiently make changes to my work to serve the needs of our clients, while also ensuring safety for the pedestrian and motorist.

How has your experience at UM-Dearborn helped prepare you for your internship?
The extensive knowledge I learned in programming at UM-Dearborn was crucial in my success at Intvo. I started off as a self-taught programmer before I even took my first class, but UM-Dearborn helped me to understand high level programming languages, like Java and C#. It also allowed me to broaden my professional portfolio and make connections within the software engineering community, and helped me connect with Assam here at Intvo.

Assam Alzookery, CEO and Founder of Intvo:

Talk about what it was like to have a SCIA intern from your Alma Mater?
As an alum, I know how important it is to have opportunities to apply your educational knowledge to the real world. I think Stuart and I were both fortunate to have a lot of diverse opportunities to explore different avenues in the field where we could apply our educational experience. Opening the first door is always the most difficult step in finding a job, and UM-Dearborn has many opportunities for students to open those doors through partnerships the university fosters within the community. I think SCIA is making a really positive impact on not only the students, but the community that pulls from UM-Dearborn’s talent pool. It's a huge benefit to have fresh young minds help shape the company and offer new perspectives and bring the most current industry knowledge to the forefront, and Stuart is a great example of that.  It’s why we’ve offered him full-time employment.

As a UM-Dearborn alumnus, can you describe your experience working with the university from an entrepreneurial perspective?
I knew that if I wanted to find the best programmer, I’d have to go back to my alma mater. At UM-Dearborn, we’re a family, we work together, and we share the same obstacles and the same successes. It’s opened a lot of doors for us to reconnect with the university for collaboration as well as mentorship opportunities in the autonomous vehicle space. I look forward to seeing how we can continue to mutually benefit from one another. 

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