Inspiration the Mother of Invention for CS Students Boilerlabs App

09-23-2014
Writer(s): Jesica E. Hollinger

Boilerlabs

It all started with a computer science class project whose directive was to create a useful application that would be submitted and graded at the end of the semester. 

Five Purdue computer science classmates in CS 307 (taught by Professor Dunsmore) formed a team and created an application – Boilerlabs – that has transformed the way students are able to find computer lab space on the West Lafayette campus.

The inspiration was spawned by the frustration of Abhinav Kumar, a junior in the class, who grew aggravated at not being able to find open lab space when he needed it.

“It was frustrating to show up to a lab, wait in line and then to not be able to get in, having wasted time, often with only an hour of free time to spare,” Kumar said.

Kumar and many others on campus had tried to use the existing lab app that was available through ITaP, but it just didn’t work.

Kumar added that all of his teammates had the same difficulty finding available labs, so when he suggested his idea, they all agreed it was a good choice.  The students were given the option of selecting their own project or selecting from a list.  Ninety percent of the students selected their own project.

CS 307 is unique in the sense that 75% of the class is based on hands-on creating, where students learn by doing.  Teams are formed and each individual is assigned a specific area of focus. The goal is to play to each individual’s strengths and try to find the optimal way for them to perform their best, since teammates (not the professor) assign each other with a final grade for the course.

Shalin Shah, also a junior in the class, said that Professor Dunsmore encouraged the students to keep their applications simple for the end user.

“Our goal was to create an app that would be easy enough to be used by a general population with basic computer skills.  With more than 40 thousand students at Purdue, our goal was to reach out to them and make it easier to find an open lab,” Kumar said.

Boilerlabs was adopted by the University and launched which launched this August.

The app helps locate available ITaP computers and printers in different labs on campus. The app provides a list and a Map, as well as the closest lab from your current location, then directions to the lab. It also displays the total number of available computers in the lab, as well as the times when the labs are open.

Team member Akshit Gupta, also a junior in computer science, said the project helped them use the techniques learned in class to create not only this app, but gain a deeper understanding how applications and software are created.

“In class we learned how to make apps with agile software development or Scrum which is a framework tool used by 90% of the software industry to create software,” Gupta said.

When asked if the team was hoping to garner any money for their successful app creation, Gupta said they agreed that the reward was creating something that helped so many people, so they all agreed to keep the app as open source.

“What we did affects so many people at Purdue. We feel good about that,” Gupta added.

Shah shared that the team was appreciative of the help given by the department and faculty in launching their effort.

"We are so grateful for Dr. Tim Korb and Professor Dunsmore, for without them both, we would not have been able to launch this application." Shah added.

{Caption: The team members pictured left to right are Rishabh Singh Ahluwalia, Shalin Shah, Akshit Gupta, Abhinav Kumar, and Ayan Singh.}