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Linsey Zwiefelhofer ’16 with Kodiak​; a welcome visitor from home.

Pet Project Caps off College

Linsey Zwiefelhofer ’16 had never described herself as a “dog person” until meeting her family’s new pet this spring. That didn’t stop the computer science major from jumping into a senior capstone project designed to help reunite lost dogs with their worried owners.

Zwiefelhofer has completed the foundational programming for an app that uses facial recognition software to match photos of lost dogs with a pictorial database. She envisions the Finding Fido app eventually being a valuable tool for humane societies and animal shelters, once future St. Norbert seniors take its programming to a higher level. “When I started doing my research, I was freaked out because facial recognition is hard enough on a human. How are we going to do it on a dog?” Zwiefelhofer recalls. “It comes down to taking a bunch of measurements of the face.”

Zwiefelhofer was allergic to and fearful of dogs as a child. Her family adopted a dog this spring and she got to meet Zodiak shortly before Commencement. Of course, she fell in love with him.

Limitations in using computer software to measure the distance between the eyes and nose of a dog makes facial recognition much more challenging than with humans. Measurements can vary greatly depending on the angle of the snout to the camera. “This is Version 1, just bare bones for now,” Zwiefelhofer says. “There is more development needed before we can make it available to use.”

Dave Pankratz ’69 (Computer Science) says Zwiefelhofer’s intense desire to learn fit perfectly with the reality-based themes of senior capstone projects, which require students to extend past what they’ve learned and adapt to new things. “I find that successful students know how to plan their lives, and she’s one of them,” Pankratz says. “She really is in charge of her time-management and project-management.”

Developing the Finding Fido app is just the latest example of Zwiefelhofer’s passion for helping people. She volunteers with groups such as Habitat for Humanity and excels at leveraging the opportunities available to her.

“Linsey is amazing. She has been since the day she arrived,” says Bonnie McVey ’82 (Computer Science). “She is a great problem-solver. She’s not one to sit and just start typing right away without a plan. A lot of students dive in fingers-first, and they shouldn’t. Linsey designs things well before she ever starts typing.”

Zwiefelhofer was one of six students to accompany McVey to Minneapolis in 2013 for a Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference. There, she impressed representatives from GE HealthCare, earning a post-graduation spot in a two-year program at the company's headquarters. 

June 27, 2016