Senior Design Project Helps Students Get Into College

3/25/2014

Pallus (www.pallus.org) is a not-for-profit organization with the goal to create a software platform that assists low income, minority high school students in having equal access to high quality academic and college counseling in order to matriculate to top tier colleges.

By developing the much-needed software, Stevens computer science seniors Nick Smith, John Cheatham, Tom Youds, Ralph Moscato and Nate Rogers are helping Pallus to achieve their goal.

Specifically, Pallus will enable high achieving inner city high school students to construct profiles that can be accessed by institutions of higher learning and scholarship programs. Colleges and universities will be able to search for and connect to students, while Pallus provides the advice and counseling these students need to realize their full academic potential.

Working with Pallus, each high school student receives a playbook, a 4-year plan that maps out their secondary school career including courses, extra-curricular activities, sports, standardized testing, and so on. Pallus then aggregates local resources, organizations and agencies, integrating them into each student’s plan for success. 

After establishing Pallus in 2012, Dr. Kaili Baucum, executive director of the organization, soon realized that she needed technology to make the program work. After pitching the idea to a Professor David Klappholz’s senior design class, Baucum was then assigned a team of students to work with the software.

“The Stevens students have been integral to the intricate process of figuring out what this portal looks like for all the different users of the program: counselors, students, parents,” says Baucum.

According to student John Cheatham, the most rewarding aspect of the project is the knowledge that someday their work may be used to help students who grew up in disadvantaged circumstances to obtain the guidance and opportunities that they deserve.

David Klappholz, team advisor and associate professor of computer science, concurs. “If the results of this project can help Pallus in its goal of getting qualified underprivileged kids to get into prominent universities,” says Klappholz. “Then the project will really have accomplished a very important goal.”

Nick Smith explains that working on Pallus also demonstrates the lifecycle of a software development project, and provides insight into the challenges and intricacies of managing a team.

“Combined with Stevens' Co-op program, Senior Design has helped develop skills that can't be taught in the classroom alone,” says Smith.

Cheatham agrees. “I will take away the skills I developed in working with a group, managing deadlines, and gathering requirements,” he says. “This project taught me a lot about project management in a real-world scenario, and what I've learned will help me in my career for years to come.”


 As the project concludes, Baucum is raising money to hire a student team member. “We’re prepared to hire a consultant or project manager to oversee the extension of the project coming out of Stevens,” she says.

This project will be displayed at the Stevens Innovation Expo held on April 30th on the Stevens campus, an annual, one-day, campus-wide event, which displays the extensive research and innovation accomplishments of faculty and students.