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Engineering students innovate with Android

19 January 2012

Engineering students innovate with Android

Android phones donated by Google have given engineering students at Victoria University the chance to innovate as well as ensuring graduates are job-ready.

Google gave Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science 50 Android Nexus 1 phones for student research. The deal was struck, says Senior Lecturer Ian Welch, “through a Victoria alumnus who put us in touch with Android developers at the US-based Internet multinational.”

The state-of-the-art phones have 3G data capability, are GPS-enabled, and include inertial sensors to detect movement.

The new devices have been used in second and third year Network Engineering courses taught by Dr Kris Bubendorfer, Andy Linton and Dr Welch.

Dr Welch says the students developed some fantastic applications with the technology.

That included systems for viewing public transport information, locating lost objects and people needing to be rescued, and a fitness monitoring tool.

“Another innovative idea was creating an application that allowed workers to sign in and out so it was quite clear exactly how long they had been there,” says Dr Welch.

The Android phones are ideally suited to co-ordinating a group of people with one student developing a system for tradespeople working in a town or suburb to pick up supplies for each other.

“When they needed something from town, they could post a message on the phone and if there was another tradesperson already at the store they could collect the items for them.”

There were no strings attached to the gift, although Dr Welch says Google is interested in hearing the results of the students’ work.

And there is also interest from businesses in Wellington who are looking for staff to help with mobile applications.

“This is pretty new technology and there is nowhere else in Wellington where you can experiment with it.

“With this type of interaction, our students are developing the technical expertise required by employers and will be able to make a difference from day one in the workforce.”

Dr Bubendorfer says having access to the phones inspired students and staff alike.

“It’s great to see students grasp a concept and then get out there and develop their own novel applications. But it was also rewarding for us. Using the phones was probably the most fun I’ve had in a university course. I left some of those lectures really buzzing.”

Victoria is the only university in New Zealand to offer specialisation in Network Engineering, a programme in which students study the design and implementation of modern forms of communications technology.

The other two digital engineering programmes offered at Victoria are Electronic and Computer Systems Engineering and Software Engineering.

“Students taking these courses come out equipped to tackle engineering problems of the 21st century,” says Dr Welch.


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