Over the last six months, 140 3rd year Computing Science students from the Glasgow campus of the University of Glasgow have just completed work on a number of IT related projects with Crichton Institute Regional Observatory, Crichton Carbon Centre, NHS Dumfries & Galloway, Third Sector Dumfries & Galloway and The Stove Network.

Eleven projects were tackled by 24 teams of 3rd year Computing Science students from the main campus of the University of Glasgow. Final presentations were made to the various host organisations at the end of March.

The students on this team-based software and electronic engineering course were to learn how to manage change in a software project, how to quality assure a project and at the same time experience a realistic client-customer working relationship.

The range of challenges presented to the students through real-life host organisations certainly achieved this aim and helping to find IT solutions to questions such as:

  • How can regional economic indicators be visualised and made more accessible to everybody?
  • How can we sell waste products from our industrial process, rather than land-filling?
  • How can individuals find out about local volunteering events and sign up to participate?
  • How can I discover where people go and what they do in my visitor centre?

The student teams and the organisations were collaborating to develop and deploy web sites, Android apps and other systems ranging from creating an economic dashboard for the Regional Observatory website to developing an inequalities benchmarking tool for the local NHS, building an online learning platform for the Crichton Carbon Centre, an App to interact with volunteers for the Third Sector to an arcade-style feedback machine for The Stove Network.

It all started about twelve months ago when Tony Fitzpatrick, Director Crichton Institute Regional Observatory and Eva Milroy, Development Officer Crichton Institute approached Dr Tim Storer from the Glasgow based School of Computing Science. Dr Storer, who also co-runs the School’s Industry Liaison Forum arranging student placements and industrial projects, agreed an innovative collaboration with the Dumfries-based partners where the students’ talents would be used to help develop the local services and activities of the various agencies.  At the same time Tim was in the process of restructuring the 3rd year course with a view to letting students take part in project work, that is as close to reality as possible. Speaking after the final presentation by the students in Glasgow, Tony Fitzpatrick said:

“This has been a fantastic experience for all concerned. We were initially a bit anxious about meeting the needs of so many students and at the same time getting some real practical help for the Observatory and our other local partners, but we need not have worried. The staff and students in Glasgow were so enthusiastic and committed that the whole project was destined to succeed from the outset and all of the student teams learned a great deal in terms of dealing with real customers with real problems to solve.”

Tim Storer, the course coordinator at the University, said:

“The changes we made to the course this year was a real experiment for us and we’re really pleased with how it’s turned out.  Introducing real world customers meant that all the projects had the realistic feel that it can otherwise be difficult to replicate in a University setting. We were also able to change how the projects were managed, introducing agile software practices to the students through video lectures and other online resources.

Aside from the technical challenges, we gave the students responsibility for setting the goals for the projects with their customer, within the time budgets allocated. This allowed them to develop key management skills, including communication and negotiation.  The real world nature of the project also meant that teams were incentivised to think about ensuring the longevity of software projects, with emphasis on software quality and sustainability.”

Latest Articles