Grove City College Students Complete “Real World” Software Project

June 4, 2010

Pittsburgh, PA — Working under the guidance of two senior staff members from B–Three Solutions, three Western Pennsylvania college students recently completed a “real world” application to help companies maintain electronic communications with their customers.

The three students — Addison Mayberry, Aaron Mininger, and Chris Straw — attend Grove City College, a private liberal arts college located in Grove City, PA.  With the cooperation of their professor, Dr. Dorian Yeager, the students were able to use the work on the B-Three application to satisfy the project requirements of their Software Engineering course.

Requiring a Significant Commitment
For each student, the B–Three application development project required a significant commitment — to B–Three and the other two students — going well beyond what would normally be required to complete a course project.  In fulfilling that commitment, each student gained the sort of experience in teamwork and project management that could not normally be obtained until the student leaves the classroom and moves into the business world.

Vice President of Operations Jamie Schultz, one of two B–Three advisors on the project, explained B–Three’s plan for interacting with the team of students:  ”We are committed to the professional advancement of students such as the team from Grove City College.  When possible, we don’t simply engage the team in situations that simulate the ‘real world’.  Instead, we embed the team in a ‘real world’ project, and interact with them in much the same way as we interact with our professional staff.”

“As a result,” Schultz continued, “the students are absorbed into the culture of our company, and they gain an understanding of our priorities and expectations.  This proves to be very satisfying for the team.  Their effort is valued and they know their work is appreciated.  Because B–Three is also sensitive to the fact that this endeavor may be the team’s first experience with such a situation, we assign experienced mentors to monitor the team’s progress and provide a learning environment for the students.”

Defining the Application
The application chosen for development by the students utilizes technology that today’s students use extensively:  text messaging through mobile phones.  The application, known as B–Three Mobile Connect, will be implemented by B–Three as one component of a project for a client.

As conceived by B–Three and developed by the student team, the application provides an easily accessible Web interface that enables the client to sign up customers who have mobile phones, allowing those customers to receive updates from the client.

Customers can manage their accounts through their mobile phones, and through the client’s website.  Through the administrative module of B–Three Mobile Connect, the client can compose new SMS messages and SMS opinion polls, and manage the list of subscribers.

Managing Responsibilities
The three students collaborated on the B–Three project for their Software Engineering class, while each student carried a full load of other courses.  In the ‘Project Risks’ section of the project plan, the students identified this requirement — working as a team while coping with competing individual responsibilities — as one of the major challenges they would face.

Bob Elliott, Director of Project Management, summed up B–Three’s expectations for each student in one sentence:  ”A business project requires a person to manage every aspect of their responsibilities — not just the work at hand.”

Designing and Developing
In early February, Schultz and Elliott set the project in motion in a kickoff meeting with the student team.  They described the proposed application and explained B–Three’s expectations for the project, outlining the major tasks to be completed and specifying the deliverables.  Schultz and Elliott worked with the students to define an appropriate role for each member of the team.

Elliott emphasized that this project followed the same project development life cycle used on other B–Three projects:  ”The students designed a database and a user interface, based on the requirements they were given.  They also developed a project plan, identifying each task and the individual responsible for it.”

After Schultz and Elliott had approved the design documents and the project plan, application development began.  Elliott described this stage of the project:  ”Each team member had specific modules to develop and test.  As the work went forward, the team submitted regular status reports, explaining what had been done since the last report and outlining the tasks to be completed next.”

Testing the Application
Schultz and Elliott supervised a rigorous testing process:

  • Each student was responsible for Unit Testing of software modules he created.
  • Once a subsystem was complete, and all components had been unit tested, the components were integrated into a subsystem for System Testing.
  • In preparation for testing the subsystem, the students created use cases and a detailed test plan.  The documentation for each use case included:  (a) description of functionality, (b) software components, (c) expected test results, and (d) actual test results.
  • If a test failed, the team had to document what went wrong and what was done to correct the problem.

Producing ‘Real World’ Deliverables

B–Three insisted upon a ‘real world’ project development methodology, with each major task documented thoroughly.  The deliverables for the project included:

  • Project Plan
  • System Specification
  • Design Specification (approved via Design Review)
  • Application Source Code (approved via Coding Review)
  • Test Specification
  • Test Results
  • Deployment in Production
  • Project Review Presentation

At the beginning of May, the students concluded the project with a PowerPoint presentation and a demonstration of the application at the B–Three office.

Building a Long-Term Relationship
The Mobile Connect project is the latest accomplishment in an ongoing relationship between B–Three and Grove City College.  B–Three has supervised two earlier application development projects, and three students have worked as summer interns at B–Three.

Reflecting on the accomplishments of the B–Three Mobile Connect team, Schultz said, “B–Three is very pleased with the results that the students presented.  In addition to proving that they could build a quality system, they have demonstrated the high values and ethical emphasis the College stands for.  Grove City College can be proud that it was represented by three fine ambassadors.  B–Three is honored to have played a role in the project, and we hope that we have provided the team with an experience they could learn from and use as they move into their professional paths.”