Making the Pitch!
Graduate students in the Department of Computer Science are working together to devise innovative software in a project created by Dr. Timothy Menzies, a professor of computer science.
According to Menzies, the products are a collaborative effort of 250 students in his CSC510: Software Engineering class. Menzies gave students six weeks to produce a software project, and on Oct. 17, students gathered for a “software swap,” where they presented 45 group projects that address real-world problems.
Students were challenged to “sell” their software to their peers, and students get a bonus grade if another student declares they want to “buy” the project. The second half of the project presents a new challenge — after students share their work, they must swap projects with another group and maintain their code.
Menzies said the parameters of the project aligned with core software engineering principles, but were broad to allow students to be creative and gain experience in software development.
“Software engineering is creating things someone else is willing to maintain,” Menzies said. “That was my principle: 'Can you write software that someone else cares enough about to pick it up and maintain it?' So I didn't tell the students what technology to use. They're using everything. They're developing in all sorts of ways.”
Some students generated solutions to improve the campus experience; One web application, titled “FindMyRoomie,” aims to connect NC State students with potential roommates based on their preferences. Another group of students presented a trained model capable of detecting floods through social media metadata to improve response time for natural disasters. The extensive array of projects at the software swap generated an inspiring atmosphere, Menzies said.
“There were times when a poster was surrounded by 12 adoring onlookers all saying, 'That's really cool.’ I loved it,” Menzies said.
The project not only challenged students to create effective software applications but tested other important career skills. The assignment is shaped around consensus-driven development, which is vital for successful teamwork, and open source principles such as zero internal boundaries, Menzies said. The presentation aspect required students to share their work in a manner that attracts interest.
“There's an entrepreneurial component,” Menzies said. “We all have to be able to condense our ideas into a tiny pitch to communicate the essence of it to other people.”
Ultimately, Menzies said, students constructed a product that can demonstrate their knowledge to potential employers.
“At the end of it, they all get something they can put into a repo and show employers,” Menzies said. “In 2022, your repo is your resume. What you can show is running code.”
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