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Communications and Marketing

Computer science students develop software for Off-Campus Study Program

Who needs to hire a software development company if you’ve got the programmers already on campus? The Off-Campus Study Programs department was in need of some new software this year and Dr. Craig Knuckles’ computer science senior seminar students stepped up to the plate.

“I caution faculty not to hire a run of the mill software house to build custom programs,” said Knuckles in a serious yet joking manner. “When you need an application built you need to get the best- our students.”

The class of nine students spent the semester developing a Web-based software application that will make the Off-Campus Study Programs easier for coordinators to manage and more accessible to students. What started off as a simple program that would collect electronic evaluation forms turned into a larger project that will benefit the entire off-campus study process. 

“It’s more than what I was looking for,” said Jan Miller, Assistant Dean of Faculty for Off-Campus Programs. “It will not serve just as an evaluation tool but also as a database which is marvelous. I am immensely impressed. It truly will be a useful tool.”

The hard part was not necessarily building the individual components, but getting nine students to work together to build one piece of software. “Collaborative software development is very challenging and that’s one of the things we wanted to teach in this class because that’s what goes on in the real world,” said Knuckles.

The new software allows Miller to organize a database of all the students who participate in off-campus study programs in a central location. The software makes it easier to issue surveys (currently long paper documents) to the students and generate reports on student participation. Erik Giraldo ’12 will continue to work on the survey statistics and reporting portion of the software as part of an independent study next semester. 

“This type of real-world application helps prepare the students for potential jobs after graduation,” said Knuckles.

Giraldo has also been involved with pioneering other software projects through working at the Brown Technology Resource Center (TRC) on campus. Over the summer of 2011, Erik designed scheduling software for the Math Resource Center and the Writing Center based on their needs. The new software helps students fulfill their tutoring needs. 

The TRC gave me the opportunity to transform my class notes into what is now two scheduling systems for  the school,” said Giraldo. “Being in this project helped me become more responsible for planning, managing time, designing, developing all aspects of the systems, and communicating with clients and adapting each project to the changes requested by them.”