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April 29, 2014
Teams of graduate students at Northwest Missouri State University spent the spring trimester building iPhone applications aimed at assisting with a variety of tasks and activities, and four of those teams earned cash prizes for their efforts during an annual contest sponsored by Kansas City Power and Light.
“Pitching Chart” – an app designed by graduate students Rakesh Chowdary Chundi, Grishma Gadhe, Bilal Mohammed and Jaswanth Rao Voora to measure the location of pitches in a baseball game – was awarded the top prize of $400 by the panel of judges comprised of KCP&L personnel.
“The interface was easy to use, it was user-friendly and it had great documentation within the app on how to use it,” said Anthony Belcher, a KCP&L help desk analyst and 2009 Northwest alumnus.
Students designed the app for client Matt Johnson, a Northwest health and physical education instructor and head coach of the St. Joseph Mustangs, but it evolved into an app that could be useful to baseball teams at all levels. The app allows a coach or player to enter pitch locations during a game and generate reports for pitchers or batters based on the data entered.
Building a baseball app, it turned out, was a bigger challenge than the group initially thought. While the students also had to learn the iOS programming language in a course taught by Assistant Professor Dr. Michael Rogers, the group members needed to learn about the game of baseball.
“They play cricket and thought it would be similar to baseball,” Belcher said. “But they learned there are a lot more rules to baseball and a lot more statistics in baseball that they did not know before. They had to learn something completely new to them and then build an app for it.”
An app designed to help golfers at Maryville Mozingo Lake Recreation Park Golf Course took the contest’s second-place prize of $300. With the app, users can measure their location relative to a hole and identify hazards such as sand traps or water. The app also will allow golfers to book tee times, enter and save their scores, and order items from the food menu.
The app was designed by Gopala Krishna Yarlagadda, Harika Narendra, Garima Dhakal, Santosh Kumar Neela and Sai Teja Mandalapu.
Similarly to the “Pitching Chart” project, the students needed to learn about the game of golf and observe golfers at Mozingo. Conversely, the students helped their clients, who included city and Mozingo administrators, understand the process of building an app.
“We had to understand the different terms they were using and then translate the terms to our computer science concepts,” said Garima Dhakal, one of the students working on the Mozingo app. “We also studied the golf course to see what the game was like.”
“Aviation,” an app developed for pilots to access weather data such as temperature and wind speeds, finished third and earned $200 for its team members: Poornima Bandari, Satish Kumar Baswapuram, Vidhatri Manoor, Divya Sadhineni and Vineela Yedavalli,
“Pallet,” an app for tracking warehouse shipments, took fourth place in the contest and was awarded $100. It was designed by Venkatesh Padma, Dushyanth Parvathaneni, Abhinay Reddy Ragi and Sasank Yellambhotla.
Each participating team submitted an executive summary of their project and made a formal 20-minute presentation to the panel. The prize money totaling $1,000 was then divided among the teams and awarded to participants during a reception.
To be successful with their projects, students had to meet regularly with the professional clients they were serving. The teams also learned varied software and tools they were previously unfamiliar with in order to ensure their projects’ usefulness.
The judges praised the teams for taking on challenging projects and noted the students had to leverage each other’s skills to bring all of the pieces together. Students had to use not only their software development skills, but their project management skills as well.
“The presentations were wonderful, informative and highlighted all of their hard work,” said Belcher who also participated in the contest as a Northwest student. “They have the instructor’s input, but to have an outside opinion from someone who is in the industry, to be able to show that product to them and use their presentation skills in front of a stranger is really beneficial.”
Since the fall of 2008, KCP&L has sponsored an undergraduate research competition for students in Northwest's Department of Mathematics, Computer Science and Information Systems. In spring 2010, KCP&L initiated a second competition for teams of students who are completing their second trimester of the department’s graduate-directed project course.
By participating in the competition, students also received face-to-face time with computing professionals who are recruiting interns and future employees.
“We are pleased that KCP&L continues their support for this competition in the spring and fall,” said Dr. Joni Adkins, who coordinates the annual contest and serves as assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics, Computer Science and Information Systems. “It is a great opportunity for students to share their software development projects and answer questions from business and IT professionals. Experiences like these that allow our master’s students to further develop their communication skills are invaluable.”
The competition is voluntary and open to teams completing projects during the spring trimester. The two-trimester software development projects are required for students working toward the master's degree in applied computer science.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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