The Division of Innovation and Applied Research is positioned at the intersection of information technology (IT) education and industry. This positioning offers unique experiential learning opportunities for Towson University IT students and is an important partner in the IT curriculum at Towson University. The IT Capstone Course in the Computer and Information Sciences (CIS) Department gives students a real-world experience working on IT projects for real clients. In this course, teams of students are paired with organizations that are in need of IT support. Projects can be focused on a number of IT sub-disciplines including IT planning and assessment, database development, security testing, hardware and software configuration, network configuration, and web development. I have taught the IT Capstone Course since the spring of 2012 and during this time, students have worked on 25 projects with 19 different organizations. This includes a number of non-profit organizations, companies, and organizations affiliated with Towson University.
The Division of Innovation and Applied Research Partnership
In my first semester of teaching the course, I contacted Dr. Daraius Irani to inquire about any potential IT projects for students in the Division of Innovation and Applied Research. Since then, the Division has been an extremely valuable partner, working with students on six IT projects across three areas in the division, including GIS, IT, and the Business Incubator. This partnership with the Division has allowed students to work with the cutting edge of information technology and has given them valuable experience to add to their resume as they search for jobs post-graduation.
Michael Bentivegna of the Center for Geographic Information Sciences (CGIS) has been a key partner since the inception of the IT capstone course, resulting in three projects over the last four semesters. Students have worked with CGIS in a research capacity to investigate and test the use of cloud technology to provide web-based mapping solutions. In the Spring Semester of 2012 students performed a feasibility study for a cloud-based development environment for CGIS and analyzed a number of solutions for using cloud services for CGIS’s development environment. Then in the Fall Semester of 2012, students assisted CGIS in testing GIS services on the Amazon Elastic Cloud and developed a total cost of ownership for the use of cloud-based services for a CGIS web mapping application. Finally in the Fall Semester of 2013, students developed and tested the ESRI GeoEvent Processor for use in online analysis of information related to emergency preparedness such as weather, traffic, and power outages. In all of these projects students have gained hands-on experience with GIS systems, data management, and configuration of cloud-based client/server applications.
The partnership with the Division’s IT team is very important to the IT Capstone class in that it offers students with a unique chance to work in a real-world data center environment. Wayne Hart and Brian Bechtel have worked with IT Capstone students on two projects. In the Fall Semester of 2012 students analyzed and developed recommendations for a log analysis solution for Windows servers housed in the data center. In this project, students analyzed the specifications of a number of log analysis software suites and tested the functionality of the software based on requirements developed by the IT team. Based on this analysis, the students developed recommendations for a logging analysis platform. In the Fall Semester of 2013 they offered a unique experience for IT Capstone students to test their server operating systems for compliance with the Health Information Protection and Privacy Act (HIPPA). In this project students first researched the HIPPA guidelines for server operating systems. Then they scanned their servers for potential vulnerabilities that are identified in the HIPPA guidance. This resulted in a report that IT team used to patch their servers to ensure HIPPA compliance. Both of these projects provided students with an incredible experience in solving IT problems for a real-world data center.
The university’s business incubator has also been a valuable partner to the IT Capstone course. In the Spring Semester of 2012, students worked with the incubator to analyze and document the current IT infrastructure and to develop recommendations for improvements. This project resulted in recommendations for improvements in IT support, server hosting, and telecommunications for the incubator. This project provided students with a comprehensive experience in working with all aspects of IT across an entire organization.
In summary, the Division of Innovation and Applied Research has been an ideal partner for the IT Capstone course in the CIS Department offering real-world projects for students to develop their technical and professional skills before entering their careers. This partnership has been mutually beneficial for Division and the CIS department alike, and we plan to continue to develop this partnership in the future.