Every year Computing students get to take part in one of the experiences that makes a BCIT education special: the industry project. The projects involve working with a real client, on a team, towards a set of IT or software deliverables. Termed Industry Sponsored Student Projects (“ISSP”s), the projects offer benefits to both sponsors and students.
While project terms happen throughout the year, spring 2016 projects just wrapped up in a week of presentations showing what students most recently delivered to industry.
Budget-friendly help to non-profits
Industry projects can offer a low-cost way for non-profits to do work they might not otherwise be able to afford. It’s free to submit a project request. If a student team selects the proposal, the client pays only a small administrative fee.
The Salvation Army Addictions & Rehabilitation Centre (ARC) in Victoria recently submitted a project proposal for development of a system that would manage room and bed occupancy, as well as fees, to support their spectrum of transitional housing rehabilitative services. Their dream wish list included a case management module as well.
“We don’t have the budget to develop this kind of software. This project was out of our realm of possibilities as an NGO, it wasn’t an option for us” says Jeffrey Baergen, Program Manager. “We went from multiple spreadsheets to a single database – it’s such a vast improvement it’s amazing. No Salvation Army in BC has this software, and we can now share it BC-wide and beyond within our organization. It couldn’t have been better for us.”
Opportunity to try out possible new hires
Local company FireFit, which puts on special competitive events for First Responders, submitted a project proposal for a website redevelopment. They needed to automate their registration process, including payment processing. They also wanted event rankings and results to be tracked on the web, and an overhaul of their site for functionality and style. The project was significant, involving multiple kinds of functionality and databases, as well as design. Students used six computing languages to tackle various aspects of the project, including one that was new to them.
“We have worked with BCIT Students over the past two years (3 semesters), to modify current and develop new Event Registration Systems for our company” explains Hilary McRoberts, FireFit Vice President Operations. “Working with the students has been a very positive experience. We have found them bright and intelligent and hungry to actually be able to use their skills to develop programs that will work in the real world. We hope to give the students some experience that they can use after graduating and moving into the work force.”
FireFit has used these industry projects to test out possible staff: the company was so impressed it went on to hire one of the students.
Students appreciate the real-world experience
“The industry-sponsored projects are great opportunities to work directly with clients who have business needs and problems to solve,” is how Joe Pelz sums up his experience.
His team was tasked with making a game that could be educational, entertaining, and comforting for children age 6-8 living with, and learning to manage, cystic fibrosis.
“Our client had an idea of the game they wanted to make, we worked to understand that goal and pitched them our proposal for a prototype. From there we assembled a working prototype of the game that could run on Android tablets and do real user testing with before our client took the idea further, all in a five-week term. It was both fun and highly successful!” explains Pelz.
Student Carson Roscoe and his team worked on the development of a 360 degree parking system for their client’s Tesla, which the client wanted to display in the Tesla browser. “This industry project allowed us to learn valuable debugging skills and Linux systems administration work,” explains Roscoe.
Formula for a successful experience
Instructor Trevor Lord explains, “clients are sometimes worried that they don’t have the technical knowledge to engage with a student team, but every team is paired with a faculty supervisor for mentorship, guidance, and support. All clients really need to bring is a business goal, a problem to solve.”
Of course, the projects are a learning experience, and clients are not guaranteed results. As such, projects should not be mission critical – ideal projects are proof-of-concept, problem-solving, or research and development. “ISSPs are valuable for organizations that want to develop a prototype or do a proof-of-concept, because we can help them in a low-risk way” states Lord.
Project proposals from organizations and individuals are welcome year round – see if you have something that might be a fit.
Also, if you were wondering, “getting to ride in a Tesla was awesome,” reports Roscoe.