BGSU Magazine Spring 2012
Software factory essentially a student production
Tucked in a small office off one of the narrow back corridors inside Hayes Hall is a factory. No smokestacks, no machines churning away and no hardhats or safety glasses, but there’s factory-like production, indeed.
BGSU students in the Department of Computer Science are working in the Agile Software Factory, an innovative effort to stretch the walls of the classroom and provide real-world projects with clients who have specific and often highly specialized needs.
Dr. Joseph Chao, an associate professor of computer science, created the program to serve as a clearinghouse for cooperative ventures with community partners that require software development. More importantly, the idea was to give students hands-on involvement in projects that would provide learning opportunities while serving the greater good.
One system developed by Chao’s students, called AgileAssyst, assists people with cognitive disabilities such as autism. By using a smartphone, the parent or teacher working with the individual can build a schedule and make changes at any time.
“It actually relieves a lot of the burden on the caretaker,” Chao observed. “The system syncs in real time, so they can get on the Web and make changes whenever they need to.” The majority of the work to create the actual programs is done by students. The software development classes provide a foundation and an outline of the process to be followed, but the students also commit a substantial amount of their free time to the effort.
“I actually think it is much better that way,” said Chao, who worked in the software development industry before coming to BGSU. “If it’s all done in a classroom setting, then everything is so predictable. Instead, our approach is to have the students find out what people need, and then they have to develop it. With what we are doing with the Agile Software Factory, these are real-world situations.”
Chao said that his students find the work extremely rewarding, since the software products they create have assisted schools, service organizations and a variety of other nonprofits.
“They are helping people who need help, and there’s a real sense of fulfillment, a sense of satisfaction, from doing that,” he said. “I’ve found that if it’s a real need, the students are more excited to spend extra time working on it. That is a major motivation factor. They want it to be good.”
For more information, visit agile.bgsu.edu.