Boutell Adapts to Changing Times in Computing

Monday, August 08, 2016
RHIT Matt Boutell

Compute this: Matt Boutell, associate professor of computer science and software engineering, received the Dean's Outstanding Teacher Award at the 2016 commencement.

Change has been a constant in Matt Boutell's world as a computer science educator.

There was the career change from high-school math teacher to college professor, which involved earning a doctoral degree and joining the Rose-Hulman computer science and software engineering (CSSE) faculty in 2005.

Then, there's the rapid turnover in technology and the challenge of giving students the tools necessary to bring innovation to software development.

"You have to adapt to the elements because there's something new and interesting in software around every corner," Boutell says.

Elements of data structures, mobile applications, and cloud computing didn't exist when Boutell was an undergraduate student in the early 1990s. He has adapted his teaching to those and other developments in image recognition, machine learning, and pattern recognition during a career that has been enhanced by a four-year research internship with Eastman Kodak and doctoral research at the University of Rochester. Boutell also spent the 2011-12 school year as a Fulbright Scholar teaching at Zambia's Copperbelt University.

His quest for continuous learning continues. Boutell played a key role in establishing Rose-Hulman's multidisciplinary robotics minor, introduced the use of robotics in the CSSE department's introductory software development course, and added new courses in image recognition and Android application development for students in a variety of academic majors.

Boutell offered the Android application development course online in the summer of 2014. However, less than a year later, all of his videos needed to be revised when the Android development environment was revamped. This allowed him an opportunity to also update the cloud storage unit to use a new service called Firebase (a company formed by Rose-Hulman alumni that was acquired by Google). Then, this past May, Google unveiled a new version of Firebase, requiring Boutell to make further video revisions before teaching the course this summer.

"Matt has a tireless dedication to make sure that the courses he teaches reflect current state-of-the-art practices," says Jameel Ahmed, interim dean of faculty.

His passion for teaching and accessibility to his students was recognized with the 2016 Dean's Outstanding Teacher Award. His nomination came from students.

"I have always liked teaching others. I like watching students learn, grow and mature as individuals, and then succeed wherever life leads them," he says.

Boutell also is committed to helping others. He recently spent a week assisting the needy and shut-ins during an inner-city mission trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee. His year as a Fulbright Scholar in Zambia, intended as a means to share his knowledge, taught him valuable lessons.

"I learned primarily to slow down, and enjoy life and family," he remarks. "Lecturers at Copperbelt University spent the first few minutes of class each day connecting with their students. I found this very valuable. I now appreciate more some of the things that we have at Rose-Hulman that are so easy to take for granted: excellently-prepared students, class schedules posted well in advance, fast Internet, and having electricity and running water 24 hours a day, seven days a week."