Logo: University of Southern California

CS Class Tackles Web Needs of Student Organization and Local Businesses

Bundt Cake Baker, Origami Vinyl, Brotherhood Crusade and LACI student outreach group are clients

May 11, 2011 —

Students in Michael Crowley’s class in computer science – CSCI 351— got real-world challenges this year.

Crowley’s colleague David Wilczynski has long been offering a ‘capstone class’ in which seniors tackle problems that come from local community groups and businesses. This year, Crowley, an associate professor of engineering practice in the Viterbi School's Computer Science Department, had his lower division class reach out in parallel fashion through the Los Angeles Community Impact (LACI) organization.

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Baker Chrysta Wilson is online, thanks to a team from Michael Crowley's class CS cla

Student Scott Sperling was working with LACI, which tries to help local businesses and organizations succeed. He brought LACI and the class together. The result: the class brought CS skills not only to local businesses reached through LACI, but to LACI itself.

At semester end, Crowley’s class presented their work with the clients on hand - and the presentation for one client, USC alumna Chrysta Wilson, had a sweet plus for all attendees.

Wilson is the proprietress of the “Kiss My Bundt” bakery, provider of scrumptious cakes, cookies and bars, as well as serving as a research and education center for Bundt-cake technology. She brought abundant samples of the material in question to the demonstration by Crowley students of the web forms they created not just to order cakes, but also to receive Wilson expertise.

Similar work was on display in a non-pastry format in work by Crowley students for the Brotherhood Crusade, a USC adjacent non-profit trying to improve the life of local youth by mentorship, counseling and education.

The issue for the Brotherhood leadership was effective, user-friendly methods to allow Brotherhood personnel to effectively access all the information about the youths the program worked with. These records had long been on paper.

So, reads the report of the USC team that worked on the project, “our team devised a way for them to securely store and instantly look up this information online. We even perform some of the computations that they need for their reporting. This system will save them many hours every single time they fill out a report.”

Another client: Origami Vinyl: “a mom and pop independent vinyl record store and independent record label located in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles,” which was looking for ways to expose their offerings to the widest range of potential customers. The students vigorously attacked the web merchandising/marketing problem.

Two separate teams worked LACI's case. The organization, primarily made up of business students, wanted to have a website in order to track and search their many professional, academic, and alumni contacts, as well as a project management tool that would allow them to effectively communicate within their teams and efficiently track any pertinent documents for their consulting projects.

Brotherhood Crusade representatives - and Viterbi CS students
While such records are frequent in many organizations, LACI had long functioned without them --- and were very glad to be getting not one but two models, which they are now melding.

Crowley can’t wait to try outreach again. "I think students get a much more realistic learning experience as to how the real world works if they get to work with real customers. We ran the risk of students not taking it seriously and doing a poor job - which would not look good for USC." But, he said, the students rose to the challenge.

"The result is that all the groups produced professional quality web sites that their customers are actually going to use. I couldn't be happier with the results. I'm very proud of what the students accomplished."