Erika Estrada Medina

Erika Estrada Medina

Cal State LA student uses computer science for innovation in robotics

She’ll launch a career in software development or data science.



Erika Medina

By Margie Low | Cal State LA News Service


When Erika Denisse Estrada Medina received her first computer at nine years old, she was bright eyed and excited about all the possibilities. The Windows XP operating system allowed her to explore her creativity and curiosity. She taught herself to program in HTML and was able to build web pages on her own.

As a student at Cal State LA, Estrada Medina is developing and testing a computer vision and motor control system that will enable a robotic submarine to navigate through an underwater obstacle course and perform a series of tasks autonomously.

“I am interested in how computers can help solve problems and provide solutions. It is fascinating how everyone and everything are connected to technology today,” said Estrada Medina, who graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science during Cal State LA’s May 24 Commencement ceremony.

Estrada Medina, a 25-year-old Pasadena resident, hopes to pursue a career in software development or data science after graduation. Her dream job is to work for Google.

Throughout grade school, Estrada Medina possessed a knack for mathematics. Her mom encouraged her to aim to become the first in her family to earn a university degree.

Estrada Medina started taking a few college courses during high school to get a head start on her college career. As she strived to figure out her academic path, she took numerous courses in various fields. She ultimately earned four associate degrees in engineering and technology, social sciences, humanities and natural sciences from Pasadena City College.

However, it was a programming concepts class that eventually confirmed Estrada Medina’s interest in computer science. She hopes to implement innovative solutions through computer applications and programs.

“I was inspired by the class instructor to work hard and never to give up, and he gave me confidence in my computer skills,” said Estrada Medina.

At the encouragement of the instructor, Estrada Medina helped tutor students in a beginning computer class and volunteered in various computer-related activities. She found it fulfilling to be able to use her knowledge and skills to give back to others.

While at Cal State LA, Estrada Medina earned a 4.0 GPA in her coursework. She was involved with a machine-learning project that used data to predict the bike rental demand in Washington, D.C. She also developed a natural language processing application, which can understand simple questions and generate a response for each question.

Estrada Medina also loves art and she has been spending her free time developing her drawing skills. She believes that art can be integrated into technology and can also help expand imagination when it comes to computer programming and web development.

A Dean’s List student, she is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi honor society. She also works part-time as a student assistant offering web support for the university’s College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology.

Estrada Medina is now preparing for the upcoming 2019 International RoboSub Competition, which will be held in San Diego this summer. She and her team members are working to provide navigation, stabilization, object detection and task handling capabilities for the RoboSub.

“Erika is one of my best students,” said Mark Sargent, the team’s faculty advisor. “Her role [on the RoboSub team] is to develop a computer vision system that can detect underwater objects using deep learning. So far she has been able to detect objects with over 80% accuracy.”

Sponsored by RoboNation and the U.S. Office of Naval Research, the underwater autonomous vehicle competition aims to empower students to find innovative solutions to global challenges.