Building Projects, Building Teams, Building Character

05-03-2016
Writer(s): Jesica E. Hollinger

Recognize a need. Fill a niche. Make it easy, make it affordable, and make it accessible.

Those are the software development orders for the students of CS 49000-SEP (Software Engineering Senior Project), who work in synergistic teams for an entire semester to design and develop apps or products with the potential to improve society and to enhance the quality of life.

Professor Dunsmore directs the Software Engineering Senior Project. He said the Senior Project is the capstone course for students in the Software Engineering Track.  “It is so rewarding to see these teams put together everything they have learned in their core courses, their Software Engineering courses, and even skills they have acquired on their own to create a professional-quality product – most of which are just amazing," Dunsmore said.

At the beginning of the semester, students are presented with a variety of project selections. Some of the projects are requested from the members of the CS Department’s Corporate Partners Program.  Students also have the option of creating a project of their own – and many have, as they realize a need for an app or product that either doesn’t exist, isn’t accessible for everyone, or needs tweaking to make it more user-friendly.

CS graduate student Alina Nesen is the Project Coordinator for the teams and works with each of them on a weekly basis. She said that in order for a project to be successful, every team member must do his or her best. 

“Over the semester the students learn to work together as a team, to respect each other, and to understand each other's strengths and weaknesses when doing the Sprint planning and distributing tasks among teammates,” Nesen said.  “The CS 49000-SEP Software Engineering Senior Project also teaches them to collaborate with their colleagues in a professional manner,” she added.

Team members of Hubless Generic, who include Rachel Gully, Joseph Koncel, David Tschida, and Ben Wencke tackled a project that provides a seamless and affordable Internet of Things (IoT) experience for every household, providing a platform that offers the most intuitive device setup and control on the market – with no hidden costs like hubs or subscriptions. Many of the current IoT solutions are prohibitively expensive and require considerable technical knowledge to operate effectively.

Ben Wencke said the project gave his team a unique opportunity to engineer a fully-scalable distributed system on the cloud. “Due to the nature of the class and the project, we were able to utilize enterprise technologies to achieve our goal which gave us valuable experience we can apply to our careers,” Wencke said. “In many other classes we were asked to write code, but many times that code is very siloed. In this course, we had the opportunity to address new challenges that previous classes only touched on,” he explained.

Santiago Abondano, Ben Ahlbrand, John Masterson, Austin Rauschuber, Jacob Richwine, and Paul Ryan are the creators of Pixeltone. Their project is a web application that utilizes computer vision techniques to detect facial emotions (along with image color analysis) in order to compose personalized music based on any image – from Facebook to wedding photos.  Jacob Richwine said that working together as a team helped them learn how to focus and how to utilize each teammate’s individual strengths, while juggling everyone’s schedules.

“It was an experience to deal with the competing ideas in design and implementation,” Richwine said. “After spending several late nights completing tasks, it was a great feeling for all of us to merge code together and see (or in our case hear) the results of our labors,” he related.

The team members of Lab Broadcaster include Nishant Moorthy, David Olaves-Mullican, Simon Smith, and Brian Shrawder who together set forth to develop an Android app and a website that would help minimize the time spent looking for an open lab seat in the CS Department.

“Lab Broadcaster is a software tool that lets CS students know a lab’s capacity and allows users to broadcast themselves to help, or get help from other students,” Olaves-Mullican said.  He said working with his particular group was among the ‘greatest team experiences’ he’s had as a student in CS. “There were so many paths we could take to design and implement this project and we all bounced ideas off of each other and found the best solution, which helped create great teamwork and a great project. We all did our part of the work on the project and it turned out to be a great success,” he elaborated.

Rashmi Iyer, Kyle Rodd, Tyler Springer, Cris Shumate, Hayden Thomas, and Ivan Zhang are the team members of SmartRoom, who created an IoT-type project that helps integrate the devices in a home residence. Users can control things like lights and speakers, while connecting them to an intruder alarm. SmartRoom also was created with the flexibility to add new devices.

Tyler Springer said their project is more focused and user-friendly than other integrated home solutions currently available on the market. “In today’s fast-paced world, people desire technological integration across all their devices, smart or otherwise,” Springer said. “In order to achieve this goal, our team decided to create a ‘SmartRoom’ that would be easy and efficient to use,” he explained.

Each year, the enrollment for the Software Engineering Senior Project continues to grow. This Spring 2016 semester there were 14 teams of 64 students.  Already, 84 students have registered for Fall 2016. This will be a record – far more students than any previous semester.  Throughout the years, students have reported that this course is among their favorites in, not only CS, but their entire coursework for their undergraduate degree at Purdue. Not bad for a Computer Science Software Engineering Track requirement.