Growing Up with His Department
William (Bill) Ziegler and Binghamton University grew up in the same hometown and the Computer Science Department has grown with him, too, in his 30 years at the University.
Computer punch cards were the only way to enter information into a computer when William (Bill) Ziegler started his education, but technology and the associate professor of computer science have both come a long way. Students don’t have to use a typewriter to enter information into a computer anymore and now most students own their own computers.
“I think some students are attracted to computer science because they like sitting in front of the computer,” Ziegler says. “However, you won’t be able to succeed in business unless you move out from behind the machine and interface with the real world.”
That’s the idea behind his Professional Ethics and Communications course. Computer science seniors break free from the computer screen, then apply oral and written skills to solve a problem with off-campus professionals.
It’s a relationship that has worked well in recent projects with the Broome County Department of Aviation and McFarland-Johnson Engineers. Spurred by the national Federal Aviation Administration Design Competition, Ziegler’s 43 students recently tackled two problems. Divided into two teams, one team developed a plan to use geothermal heat to remove ice and snow from runway aprons; the second offered ways to recycle de-icing fluids. Both teams took first place awards in their categories in the FAA competition.
“There were times when I wasn’t real popular with my students while working on this project,” Ziegler says. “I pushed them hard, not because I wanted to win the competition, but because we had real life deadlines to contend with. This was a real project, and we had to treat it as such. Sometimes I felt more like a coach than a professor,” he says.
“I hope they do know what I was trying to accomplish. I had a really good set of students, but it was hard work.”
When the awards were announced, Ziegler decided not to use e-mail to notify his students of their first-place finishes, opting instead to personally call each of the 43 students. “I actually ended up speaking to almost every student,” he said. “There were only a couple I had to leave messages for, and I even got to speak to some parents.”
Ziegler also spends time with students outside the classroom. He is faculty master for the Newing College residential community. It may seem unusual to have a computer scientist in that role, but not for Ziegler, who has focused on undergraduates since he started at Binghamton, “advocating at the undergraduate level,” he says. “That’s why it fits -- because I originally came to Binghamton University wanting to work closely with undergraduate students.”
A graduate of Syracuse University, Binghamton University and Broome Community College, Ziegler admits there‘s more than his on-campus life. “I have a wife, three children and a dog. And they are my life,” he says.
Two of Ziegler‘s children are currently attending college and one has graduated. “They help me a lot on the job because I learn from them and that helps me better understand the college students I work with,” he says. “I don’t want to lose that understanding of young people.
“My family makes me part of who I am at Binghamton,” he adds. “I think my job at Binghamton University helps me with my family and my family helps me with my job.”