Maddie Fain

Engineering in her future

Major: B.S. Intelligent Systems Engineering

Maddie Fain grew up knowing—just knowing—that her college choice would come down to two words.

Roll Tide.

“I was going to Alabama,” says Fain, a freshman in the Intelligent Systems Engineering program at the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering. “I really like the South. I love the heat. I love football, and Alabama would be it.”

Fain applied to other schools, including Indiana University, as a pre-med student. The more she thought about it, the more she thought engineering could be the way to go instead. After all, she loved both math and the human body, and engineering, particularly bioengineering, was the meat in the middle.

So she started changing her requested majors at the various schools, and that’s when her path became more clear.

“I had heard rumors that IU was starting an engineering program,” Fain says. “I emailed (Director of Undergraduate Recruiting and Advising) Nancy Lemons, and she answered all my questions. I changed my major, and suddenly a whole bunch of doors opened at IU. Alabama couldn’t come through in the ways IU did, and it was a better fit for me.”

Throw in the fact IU is a lot closer to Fain’s Greenwood, Indiana, home than Alabama, and her choice was obvious.

The Crimson Tide were out. Roll Cream and Crimson.

In the process, Fain became a pioneer.

She’s part of the first cohort of undergraduates to enroll in ISE, and it’s a role she wholeheartedly embraces.

“I love adventures that aren’t too risky,” Fain says. “IU wasn’t going to create a program if it wasn’t committed to supporting it, and I’ve found plenty of support. It’s exciting because 20 years in the future, I’m going to know I was one of the people to start the successful program.”

It isn’t just the program that is new to Fain. She’s also a newcomer to computing. Fain walked into the program without having taken a computing course in high school, and she certainly didn’t know how to write code. She didn’t really know how to work Google Docs.

Just a few months later, Fain was part of a group that presented a project—a Skee-ball game that projected different backgrounds and could be used to play different games—at SICE’s Fall Projects and Research Symposium.

Guess who did the coding for the project.

“It was really fun to go from not knowing anything to programming that machine to be showcased to the public,” Fain says. “It was so great. You had the immediate gratification of accomplishing something and building off everything I’m learning right now. I’m learning about computers in a creative and fun way.”

Fain’s ultimate goal is to go into prosthetics. During her senior year in high school, she interned at a hospital where she was witness to a leg amputation. She saw the procedure and thought there must be a better way to go about replacing the missing limb.

“There is so much amazing technology out there,” Fain says. “Then you look at prosthetics, and they are so simplistic and primitive. They haven’t developed much. As I’m taking classes, I’m thinking about how I can use different technologies on prosthetics.”

Fain has received support along the way from fellow classmates, who are eager to answer any questions she may have. She also is excited for the new Luddy Hall to open in November, giving her access to more resources and a state-of-the-art learning experience.

“I’m so excited for Luddy Hall,” Fain says. “I want to go and spray paint my name on the building. ‘Maddie Fain, one of the first engineering students, was here!’ I’m just so excited about this program and the future. ISE is going to have the whole fourth floor, and we’re going to have such a great community in that building.”

Fain can’t wait to see what the rest of her college career holds.

“I’m taking part in things you normally only get to do when you’re an upperclassman, and the fact I’m around older students is helping me develop faster inside and outside of the classroom,” Fain says. “This whole experience has been beyond what I imagined, and I’m only getting started.”