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Pitt State CIS students developing app for PSU Nature Reach program

Computer information systems (CIS) students in a new upper division programming class have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with a real-life project.  

Students in “Building Web Apps with Java Script” are designing an app under the direction of instructor John Kuefler for the PSU Nature Reach Program. The app create will track the care given to the birds being cared for at the Nature Reserve. 

“I think the hands-on experience with something real will be beneficial..,” Kuefler said. “It’s one thing to work on a class project that’s a… fake scenario, and that certainly has value, but we get to work on something where there’s a real client or customer, there’s a real deliverable and something that might live on past your time in the class and that’s a great experience, a great resume builder, and so there’s really a lot of benefits there.” 

Nature Reach director Delia Lister reached out to Kuefler about the possibility of having an app developed following a professional development training where she saw the idea of tracking animal care digitally. Until now, staff at the Nature Reserve have relied on recording data on paper in a three-ring binder. 

“I’m excited at how it will be convenient for me to see when my staff has gone in and taken care of the birds but also to be able to be more informed about the bird’s diet makes me feel better, because anything we can do to improve the bird’s life or any of our animals’ lives, the better off we are,” Lister said. 

The students began their project with a tour of the Nature Reserve to see the birds before being dividing into teams to begin designing the app. The students will work on their apps and present Lister with prototypes from which she can pick the one that fits their needs the best. 

“…We spent about the first half of the semester working through concepts, and now that we’re in the second half of the semester, the teams are starting to build their apps and at the end of the semester we’ll show them to Delia, and she’ll pick the one she likes best,” Kuefler said. 

Tyler Webb, senior in CIS, is working on this project and believes it has great benefits to students in the class. 

“I think the most beneficial part of the project is the skills gained by the members of our class,” Webb said. “It will hopefully inspire students to pursue software development as a career.” 

Kuefler said the opportunity to partner with another academic department was appealing. 

“It’s always nice when we can collaborate across campus,” Kuefler said. “Years and years ago I used to work in the biology department as a TA, so I have fond memories over there as well. Combine that with the ability to have a fun class project right now with everything else going on…” 

Lister also believes cross-departmental partnerships are important. In this case, she hopes the students will learn about a department they wouldn’t normally be in, as well as important life lessons. 

“I always tell my students who are all non-biology students that it doesn’t matter what major you are, we all have an environmental impact and we can all make a difference so if I’ve got a class that want to work on this app, they’ve just been introduced to something they might not have ever been able to see,” Lister said. 

Kuefler hopes to have the apps ready for Lister to choose from by the end of the semester.

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