Computer Science Students Develop Software for Local Non-Profit

softwareengineeringThere is a model for cloud computing called softare as a service, or SAAS. Such software exists and runs “in the cloud” and provides functionality to its users upon request. The students in Dr. Howard’s Software Engineering course (CS 440) take a slightly different approach to software as a service: they create software that directly helps people and organizations perform their vitally important work.

This year, three software projects were developed by the students in CS 440.

  • An application for Heart Haven Outreach to help staff there assess their strengths.
  • A tool for Lewis’ College of Nursing and Health Professions to track student progress through their program of study.
  • A quiz system that will be used as part of a research project being conducted by Dr. Bill Chura in Biology.

The students worked in teams all semester to gather and document requirements for their projects, interacting with the customer multiple times. Based on the requirements they gathered, the students started devising models for the software, capturing key design and implementation decisions in UML models such as use case, class, sequence, and activity diagrams. From these models, they wrote the software, using PHP, Javascript, HTML, and CSS. AS most of the students did not know PHP at the start of the project, even the language was a learning experience, a situation not terribly different from what they’ll encounter in the real world.

 

The project for Heart Haven Outreach, or H2O, is particularly interesting, because it demonstrates how effective university-community partnerships can be. The students who developed that project were Andrew Hiter, Eric Raber, Chris Pelech, Dennis Stachura, Tom Tibble, and Ian Ziarko. Working closely with a representive from H2O, the students developed a tool that would enable H2O administrators to survey their employees to identify their strengths and weaknesses and then plot them on a graph. The students developed from scratch an innovative and intuitive pie-style graph that clearly identified areas of strength and aspects that require improvement. H2O, the customer, was extremely impressed. Just as important, it was a fantastic learning experience for the students. Chris Pelech remarked, “As a team, not only did we use skills we learned in our core classes, such as object-oriented programming, but we also used skills earned in elective classes such as Computer Graphics, Encryption, Databases, and math classes like Linear Algebra.” It is a fantastic thing when students are able to take what they’ve learned in multiple classes and tie them together in pursuit of a shared goal. That reinforces their learning.

The Department is proud of its students and their accomplishments. Team projects like these emphasize the inherent value of software as a service in the traditional sense and underscore the importance of Computer Science as a discipline that, at its core, helps people.

Ray Klump

About Ray Klump

Professor and chair of Mathematics and Computer Science Director, Master of Science in Information Security Lewis University http://online.lewisu.edu/ms-information-security.asp, http://online.lewisu.edu/resource/engineering-technology/articles.asp, http://cs.lewisu.edu. You can find him on Google+.

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