Cyber Physical Systems Program Rounds Out Student’s Education
After working for a start-up and receiving a patent in gesture recognition technology, Pragnya Kondrakunta, MS’23, cyber physical systems, advanced her education at Northeastern. As part of the master’s program, she conducted real-world project-based coursework, selected flexible electives to map to her career goals, and gained experience on co-op as a software engineer at Lake Homes Realty.
Pragnya Kondrakunta, who has an MS in cyber physical systems, knows how to set and meet goals. In 2020, she had obtained initial success in her career working at the start-up FlytBase, a maker of autonomous drones, and receiving a patent in gesture recognition technology. But she wanted to achieve more and decided to pursue an advanced degree at Northeastern.
While attending Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University in Hyderabad, India she wanted to create a wearable device based on gesture recognition technology, so she and a group of friends, did the research and created a device. They were successful enough at building a proof of concept that they received a patent in 2019.
After she graduated with a Bachelor of Technology degree, she decided she wanted experience in systems and autonomous devices, so she joined FlytBase and she was captivated by the work.
“It pushed me to comprehend autonomous systems and understand how electronics and humans interact, and how the cyber and the physical systems work in a coherent fashion,” Kondrakunta says.
She then determined that an advanced degree was the next best step to further her career. She wanted to learn more about the Internet of Things, with an emphasis on embedded systems. Searching online, she found information about Northeastern’s master’s program in cyber physical systems. “I looked at the courses and the program seemed very flexible,” Kondrakunta says. “I had the opportunity to pick multiple courses to dive deeper into a concentration that best fit my personal goals.”
She moved to Boston in fall 2021 and found she enjoyed being back in the classroom. The experience she previously gained in software systems was primarily self-taught and she welcomed an academic environment. In Enterprise Software Design, a course taught by Yusuf Ozbek, teaching professor, multidisciplinary graduate engineering programs, she learned server-side web skills and best practices for data architecture.
She welcomed the project work in each of her classes, and says she particularly enjoyed the project she completed in Connected Devices, a course taught by Andrew King, adjunct faculty and lecturer, cyber physical systems and IoT.
Under King’s supervision, she created a remote monitoring system for a simulated environment with water tanks. The system utilized sensors for tracking water level, temperature, and pressure. A gateway device aggregated data, enabling users to monitor and automate valve control through a web and mobile dashboard. This approach optimized water usage, curbed overflow, and reduced water waste without requiring physical access to the water tank or valves.
“I got the formal education I needed at Northeastern,” Kondrakunta says.
When it came time to complete a co-op, she sought an established company. “I worked for two years at a place where there were no established protocols or standardized processes,” Kondrakunta says. “I wanted exposure to how things should happen.”
She was hired as a software engineer at Lake Homes Realty and recalls how several team members mentored her and were willing to teach her how to optimize data systems. She worked with large real estate databases, refactored data to enhance design, and developed search bar features to streamline searches for real estate addresses.
When she reflects on her co-op, she appreciates how her manager helped her apply what she had learned about data to the real world. “I had a valuable learning experience,” she says.
The co-op also helped her build her people skills and she says observing co-workers in meetings was helpful. “I learned a lot from others’ discussions and that’s something I would not have learned in any other setting,” says Kondrakunta. “I really needed to be in a real-world situation to learn from people who are actually on the job.”
As Kondrakunta conducts a job search, she is looking for a position that resonates with her and she is looking forward to a challenge.
“Some people hit a wall quickly because they don’t know how to problem solve or find out information,” Kondrakunta says. “One of the best things Northeastern taught me is how to learn.”