Students taking Software Development at the University of Minnesota, Morris gained hands-on experience when they developed an application for the West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) earlier this year. Rolling out this month, the app allows visitors to WCROC’s Horticulture Display Gardens the chance to rate and comment on flowers they’re viewing.
This upper-level software development course connects students with a “customer” who provides criteria and feedback throughout the semester. Computer Science faculty members Nic McPhee and Kristin Lamberty co-taught the latest course.
“One of the key goals for this course is to try to give students a quasi-realistic experience as professional software developers,” says McPhee.
“In this case, our customers were good about being readily available and paying attention to the project,” adds Lamberty. “They gave a lot of their time, and it made a big difference for the students.”
While Lamberty and McPhee provided guidance and necessary training, it was up to the students to work with their customers to develop a feasible application that satisfied their needs.
“The struggles, failures, and pressures are what made the project such a valuable learning experience,” says Laverne Schrock ’17, International Falls, one of the students involved in the course. “I got to work with some great people and create some software that I was proud of.”
“In creating an app that will be live and used by real people, you need it to be fault-tolerant,” adds Daniel Frazier ’17, Coon Rapids. “If an error occurs, you need it to fail gracefully.”
At the end of the semester WCROC hired Frazier and Leonid Scott ’19, Morris, to finish the app. After adding a few features, Frazier says it’s ready to go.
Visitors will be able to scan QR codes in the labeled flower beds, which will direct them to the Digital Display Garden app. Users can select a flower and rate it, providing staff at WCROC valuable feedback on the garden.
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