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KU Team Takes First Place in Corporate Software Competition

Monday, April 9, 2007
[Cerner Corporation Software Competition]

A team of University of Kansas computer science and computer engineering students won a multi-university design competition led by a major Kansas City-based healthcare software development firm.

On Dec. 6, students from KU, Kansas State University, the University of Iowa and Purdue University traveled to Kansas City to present their semester-long design project before executives at Cerner Corp. KU students Samantha Cook, John Heideman, Jeffery Unger and Jonathan VanEenwyk beat all other teams for first-place honors. The competition asked students to develop software for a PDA to be used by physicians and other healthcare providers. The PDA would present, collect and tie together patient information and other data essential to healthcare providers as they care for their clients.

"The students did an outstanding job. I knew we had the potential to perform well in this challenge," said Arvin Agah, KU associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and instructor of the Software Development Lifecycle course. "From an engineering perspective, these are strong schools to compete against. All the students had to draw upon their best creative and technical skills in order to succeed."

Fourteen KU computer science and computer engineering students took part in the course, which employed a videoconference learning environment to connect students from the four universities with professionals at Cerner. The company provided each of the nine student teams with a PDA on which to build, test and run their class project. KU's class was held in a videoconference room housed at the university's Information and Telecommunication Technology Center. ITTC is a major research center at KU that focuses on creating innovative technologies in telecommunications, information systems, bioinformatics and radar.

Through videoconferencing, Cerner's engineers and business and medical professionals assisted with course lectures, giving students at all four schools lessons based on actual engineering and development processes. Stephen Smith, senior learning strategist with Cerner, said in an earlier interview that the company's associates committed between 500 and 700 hours to developing and delivering the course, above and beyond their day-to-day responsibilities.

For students, the course was a way to experience what it takes to move an idea from the product concept stage through rapid prototype development of the product, Agah said.

"The techniques and methodologies they've learned in the course can apply to any software development project they work on in the future," Agah said. "That they were able to work on an actual product in a competitive business environment makes the experience richer and more relevant to their careers."

The students retain the intellectual property rights to the software they developed for the project. The members of the winning team each received one of the PDAs.



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