Stevens Computer Science Students Design Software for the Greater Good

5/31/2012

Nonprofit and government organizations with software development needs are in luck. As they have for many years past, next year’s Computer Science seniors at Stevens will complete pro bono technical projects for public agencies, civil service organizations, charitable groups, academic researchers and others.

Dr. David Klappholz, associate professor of Computer Science, has taught a number of courses which require students to complete group projects for the greater good, projects which require them to apply their skills in software design, mobile computing, web programming, graphic design and more.

“Projects that turn Computer Science theory learned in coursework into practice are some of the most powerful learning tools,” Klappholz said. “For our students to be able to develop software that has meaningful value to a nonprofit group is an added bonus.”

In Klappholz’s Senior Design capstone course, which is required for Computer Science majors in their final year of study, real clients are acquired – mostly from the nonprofit world – and collaborate on the development of software to meet their particular needs. Over the two-semester course, students work on in-depth, highly-challenging group projects, moving from initial requirements to finished systems that the clients will actually use within their organizations.

A review of just the pro bono Senior Design Computer Science projects from the 2011-2012 academic year alone shows what practical and useful software tools these students typically produce.

One project by Kirill Marants, Jameson Mortimer, Jeff Cochran, Simon Sidhom and Jamison Andaluz resulted in the development of a software suite that assists in the growth and education of young adults with autism. Developed for a school psychologist, the connected set of tools includes mini-games and other interactive media teaching devices, as well as functions for student progress tracking and lesson preparation.

A second team made up of Frank Buonarota, Robert Williams, Alex Hieronymi, Peter Zafonte and John Horgan developed an add-on module for OpenMRS to ensure patient confidentiality and data security. Open MRS is an open-source, Java-based medical record system used by Rwandan clinics to share patient data and information.

A third project was a new content management system and website for the Bayonne Economic Opportunity Foundation, which provides programs for Bayonne’s low-income population, senior citizens and the disabled. Jamie Brabston, Rachel Lamontagne, Eriberto Garcia, Michael Weiss and Tim Nix built software to automate workflow, give public access to certain information, and provide an employee web portal for the sharing of important forms and documents.

Still more projects from the past year include a mobile app for communicating with and locating mine disaster victims, and a website that aids lifeguards and researchers in tracking rip currents. Get more details and read about other projects at this link.

“These projects demonstrate the impact the field of Computer Science can have in the real world – a lesson we want every Computer Science major to take away from his or her undergraduate experience,” Klappholz said.

In addition to advising incoming Senior Design teams in Fall 2012, Klappholz will introduce a new three-credit, required junior-level course called Database Practicum in which students will put to use skills learned in earlier courses to develop data-intensive software systems, such as web sites, for nonprofit clients.

Klappholz is always looking for new and complex real-world challenges to bring to his students. He invites contact from potential nonprofit or government clients who have a serious need for trained Computer Science scientists to solve a practical technical problem they are facing in their organizations.

Learn more about Computer Science at Stevens at /ses/undergrad/computer_science.html.