CS Students Demonstrate App-titude in Software Engineering

12-16-2015
Writer(s): Jesica E. Hollinger

The students of Professor H.E. (Buster) Dunsmore’s CS 49000-SEP (Software Engineering Senior Project) course have finished the Fall 2015 semester proving their prowess – creating NERF Gunapps and projects with the potential to improve and enhance the quality of life.

Dunsmore said that the students find the course fun and rewarding, because they actually create an app, or a project with real world value.

“The students apply all of the knowledge they’ve gained during their studies in the Software Engineering Track and bring it to fruition with their projects,” Dunsmore said.” 

Alina Nesen, Graduate Teaching Assistant and Project Coordinator for the course, started to help Prof. Dunsmore last year because of the increasing student enrollment, which has continued to grow over the last four years.

This semester 66 students comprised the class and the students were in 12 teams working on 12 different projects.  All 12 projects were outstanding.  This news release is about five of them: Purdue Parking Assistant, Food Scanner, Notion, CRATOS, and Discount Labels Reports.

Team members Craig Brentz, Mike Howard, Denver Kirshling, and Anthony Natoli created Purdue Parking Assistant, which is an app that provides live updating of parking restrictions, helping motorists manage parking tickets and restrictions around Purdue's campus.

Anthony Natoli said the inspiration for the app came from a shared experience by teammate Mike Howard, who had accumulated numerous parking tickets when he was living in residence housing.

“Mike parked his car in an area that he thought was residence hall parking, since it was right next to where he normally parked,” Natoli said. “He went out to his car a week later and found several tickets piled up, so, if he had known he was getting tickets, he could have moved his car immediately,” he added.

Purdue Parking Assistant app users who register their vehicle in the system will receive a notification if they receive a ticket. The system also allows police to update the parking lot map with current restrictions and publish it for viewing.

Consumers watching their waistlines this holiday season can benefit from FoodScanner, an app developed by team members Daniel Alonso, Tyler Grikas, Matthew Lenartowicz, Jacob Nordland, Brandon Porter, and Evan Tragesser, which helps dieters make healthy choices.

Unlike other nutrition-tracking apps, their app gives users the option of taking pictures of their food to calculate volume and mass. With this data, the app can accurately estimate the nutritional content of their meals. The team said that the most challenging part of their project was figuring out how to estimate volume from a picture.

“There were many different ways to estimate the volume and we aimed to find a balance between usability and accuracy of the calculation,” Lenartowicz said. “The food scanning process we selected was complex, which made it difficult to make the scanning process user friendly,” he added.

The team members of Notion created an app that helps students improve the quality of the notes they take during class. Teammates Tylor Garrett, Michael Hockerman, Sung Hyun Hong, Aaron Peters, and Kyle Potts tailored their software to assist a group of multiple users, similar to students taking individual notes during a lecture. Those with the app receive suggestions about things they may want to add to their own notes – based on what their other classmates are writing.

Michael Hockerman, said that his team struggled with designing the algorithm that powers the suggestion engine of Notion. He said that given a large note, the difficulty came in how to "package it up" into parts to send to other people.

“Package up too much and other users might get annoyed when they pull it in; too little and they won't even bother,” Hockerman said. “We attempted to strike a balance between the two through various analytics like line length, markdown structure, and edit-distance similarity to other suggestions the user has already received,” he added.

Alexander Birkey, Cameron Heskett, Kingshu Medhi, Dylan Lee Smith, and Christopher Wirt comprise the team of CRATOS, who created a project that uses a combination of software and hardware, allowing the remote aiming and firing of a mounted NERF gun. The application sends messages through Bluetooth to a Raspberry Pi, which then sends signals to various servos to move the turret.

Alex Birkey said that a NERF gun is currently mounted on the turret that can rotate in all directions, fire NERF darts, and provide video feed to the user through the application.  Team members believe their project could be developed for use in the military, to keep soldiers away from the line of fire.

“We had some major goals with this project that we didn't get to implement. One that we were particularly excited about was possibly implementing motion tracking and target acquisition, so the turret would be able to track and fire at moving targets,” Birkey said. “Even though this wasn't implemented, we believe this project could definitely be used to show younger developers how fun projects can be when you're creative—who doesn't want a NERF turret?” Birkey added.

Evan Arnold, Jonathan Egeland, Logan Gore, Xiaojing Ji, Geon Hee Lee, and Matthew Tracy of Discount Labels Reports created their project to help a family member’s business.

Logan Gore said that his father is the vice president of a company that used a very old reporting system dating back to the 1970’s. Despite being a company responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue every year, they never updated their dated method of showing daily production and sales statistics.

“At 8:00 a.m. each morning, the employees would pass around a single sheet of paper from manager to manager to fill out their daily sales, stats, and production numbers for the 8:40 a.m. standup meeting," Gore said. “This resulted in a group of people wasting 30 minutes each day, chasing down this form to fill out their own data,” he added.

The team created a custom-made website (currently in use by this company) where employees can enter their daily report metrics and view the data in charts, see historical data, or export the data to Excel for further analysis.

[Photo caption: Cameron Heskett, featured on the right, demonstrates Team CRATOS NERF gun project.]