Computer Information Systems Students Thrive on Competition

Intellectual curiosity, creativity, and a facility for learning software quickly are characteristics of Computer Information Systems students in Dr. Nada Khatib’s CIS 3355 course. This semester, Dr. Khatib’s students took on a new challenge when they decided to participate in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2011, the world’s premier student technology competition.

As part of the competition, students created real-world software applications using Microsoft technologies. These applications addressed the Imagine Cup 2011 theme: Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems. Students researched the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals to focus on their topic and produced videos for submission to the competition organizers. Dr. Khatib’s students submitted projects as diverse as "UHelp," an application that tracked the inventory of food banks around the world, as well as applications that would help to distribute clean water, create databases of information about HIV/AIDs, and create repositories of information about charities for mobile devices.

Dr. Khatib explained that the competition was especially demanding for her students: "We have eight teams participating in software design. This is very challenging to our CIS students as computer programming skill is not the main focus of our program. However, our students are making their amazing ideas a reality by jumping loops and meeting deadlines."

The students progressed to round two, but recently heard that they were unsuccessful for round three, which involved a trip to New York for the next level of completion. Nevertheless, the experience was a good one, says Dr. Khatib, who plans to make the Imagine Cup competition a regular part of the curriculum. "All of the students who participated expanded their skill sets and learned to approach information management from different aspects than many of the courses demand in their degree plans. It was a very valuable learning experience."

CIS students regularly take part in competitions and thrive on the quick, analytical, and creative thinking that these competitions demand. One of the most popular information management contests is the development of a mashup, which was originally a music-related concept. Mashups combine data and applications to create new services for users, leading to greater functionality and ease of use. Monica Haaksma, a former student of Khatib’s, excelled at last year’s IBM Mashup Mania competition and won high praise from the judges for her innovative creations. Monica was invited to publish her mashup on the IBM site in a Wiki, for other mashup enthusiasts to see and comment on. Examples of mashups include combining the applications that allow users to create their own search engines to find, for example, products on eBay based on price and description of an item without going to the eBay site, or finding local homes for sale using price and zip parameters. One can easily see how personal search applications could be a valuable, time-saving tool for a business website or a consumer’s personal use.

Dr. Khatib sums up the benefits of intense competition to both students and future employers: "Participating in these competitions provides students with experience in creative data management for a fast-paced, demanding industry. At the completion of a College of Technology Computer Information Systems degree, our students are very valuable to businesses because they are capable of creatively and efficiently manipulating data and software products to provide innovative solutions for real-world business needs."

For an example of mashups designed by CIS 3355 students, please check out the following:

eBay Mashup

Medical Drug/Symptoms with Pharmacy/Hospital Locator Mashup

Baroness' Home FinderKeep in touch with the homes you desire Mashup

T-Mobile Locator and Android News Feed Mashup

For the latest NBA updates and teams Mashup

Please visit YouTube for team videos: