CS 638 students showcase creative software projects during demo days

Screenshot of Minecraft game with student modifications

What do a powerful database of the hippest music, a magical spell and a gallon of spoiling milk all have in common?  They all connect to creative projects developed during the spring 2014 semester in Associate Professor Ben Liblit’s undergraduate software engineering class (CS 638:  Undergraduate Topics in Computing).  These items reflect just three of eight projects designed to help users with tasks both practical (avoiding food waste) and fun (playing videogames).

Students divided into teams to explore, in a hands-on way, the lessons Liblit teaches in the course.  Liblit hopes his students not only improve their technical and problem-solving savvy, but also absorb important lessons about working in a group—such as making sure that if one person gets sidetracked, the other team members know enough about what’s going on to keep chugging forward.

"Many of our graduates will go on to be professional programmers.  But creating software is a fantastically complex process, with both technical and social challenges.  I want my students to experience some of that,” says Liblit.  “My students have taken on some very ambitious projects, based on proposals they originated.  And they have only a few months to make the magic happen.  It's really quite a mad rush to get everything done on time.”

The lessons Liblit imparts are twofold.  “By the end of the semester, they should leave my class with two valuable things.  First, they have some impressive software system that they can be proud of.  Second, they have had a fairly intense experience of being part of a large software-engineering team.  They’ve learned a lot about the technical and human factors that decide whether such a team is successful.  They can take those two things and go out into the professional world ready to make an impact, ready to be part of real, successful software engineering teams that will make the great software that everyone wants and needs."

Students, faculty and the general public have a chance to get a taste of each project during special demo days.  The demonstrations will be held Tuesday, May 6, and Thursday, May 8, in the first-floor lobby of the Computer Sciences Building at 1210 W. Dayton St. (near the elevators).  The schedule is as follows:

Tuesday, May 6 (2:30-3:45 p.m.)

Dewey Decibel Database (D3):  D3 will help student radio station WSUM replace its antiquated system of organizing music.  Through a web app, D3 users will be able to search songs, artists and albums, and DJs will be able to create playlists.

Minecraft RPG Expansion:  Enthusiasts of the popular computer game Minecraft have created their own modifications and added features to the game, such as special spells.  (Above is a screenshot of the team’s work.)

Online Board Game:   This simulation toolkit lets users combine virtual game elements (dice, cards, pieces, etc.) to create and play their own online board games with friends throughout cyberspace.

Wisconsin Land Cover Mapping Field Validation Tool:  Working with a cartographer from Wisconsin’s state office, this team developed a smartphone app that will provide employees out in the field with an easier, faster and more complete way of collecting records on Wisconsin’s land cover throughout the state.

Thursday, May 8 (2:30-3:45 p.m.):

American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL) Mobile Application:  This sports app tracks detailed statistics about teams as well as trends within individual games.

Perfect Deck of Cards:  This gaming app allows users to play card games even without an Internet connection; additional features (such as a menu for hosting or joining games) are available for players who are online.

My Fridge:  This smartphone and web app helps users manage food at home to avoid spoilage, create tasty recipes and know what they need to stock up on during their next supermarket run.

Glassroom (Google Glass in the Classroom):  This note-taking application lets users of Google Glass record notes in a variety of media.

Project teams are eager to chat with visitors about their work May 6 and May 8.  No RSVP is needed for this event, and the general public is welcome.