You may be vacuuming your carpets remotely from the office before long, if the work of DeVry students is any indication.

As part of their final grade, electronics engineering, computer information and business information students at the DeVry

College of Technology are required to build and demonstrate a technology. Their work was on display to vendors at a technology fair this week at the school’s campus in Mississauga, Ont.

Helen Williams, for example, is part of the Self-navigating autonomous interface logic or “”Snail”” team. This group has developed a robot which uses ultra-sonic sensors to navigate, avoid collisions and map its path. She says possible applications of the robot could be a vacuum cleaner or a snowblower that could be operated remotely.

“”Say you’re at work and you forgot to vacuum, you could simply over the Internet send a signal to tell it to vacuum,”” she says.

Jerrod Mallinger and his team have developed a driver’s licence scanner that could be integrated into a police database. “”The database will check to see if you’re licensed to be driving that vehicle — if you’re the owner or if you’re authorized by the owner to drive that vehicle,”” he says. “”We hopefully want to send this to the government level and have this made standard across Canada.””

Some of the DeVry projects already have customers in line. One group has developed a Web registration system dubbed “”Write DirectXion”” which will begin testing at North Park Secondary School on Friday, according to team member Aaron Cameron. “”If all goes well, they’re going to push it for the school board,”” he says.

Sponsoring companies receive the result of the student teams’ work gratis, says Judy Fraser, DeVry’s director of business development and external affairs. Most of the time, students seek out company clients on their own but sometimes it works the other way around. “” As the word gets out on these projects — and as there is no charge to the client companies for the technology — they’re starting to call us now,”” she says. “”We take the information on what they need, determine if it’s a project suitable for the electronics or the business or the computer programs and then work with our faculty to assign appropriate teams.””

Working with clients is all part of the experience, says Robert Pajkowski, DeVry faculty member and advisor to several of the student projects, including Cameron’s Write DirectXion. It’s a serious business, he says, and each project team is encouraged to see itself as its own innovation group or consulting firm. “” My role is to supervise them from the perspective of ensuring that they have gone through the steps of the development cycle properly, that they have used good project management techniques,”” says Pajkowski. “”A good part of the project involves how people interact with each other and learning to work as a team.””

Mallinger says the process of creating a magnetic scanner has helped him develop skills in wireless, RF and cellular technologies, as well a few other things that weren’t necessarily in his school ciriculum. “”The prototype database was created in Visual Basic. We haven’t taken any courses on Visual Basic in the program that I’m in, but we basically learned it from scratch, which was a major accomplishment,”” he says.

Williams hopes her project experience with telecommunications may translate into a job with Nortel Networks, or maybe her work with robotics might land her a position with a biomedical company.

Pajkowski is all too familiar with the job slump that has plagued the IT industry in recent years, so DeVry always aims to teach its students the very latest in programming, databases and network systems analysis and design. “”This semester students spent a heavy amount of time on the Java language on Java script, Java server pages. (Those) are really hot right now,”” he says.

The job slump doesn’t cow Williams. She’ll be looking for work when she graduates this June. “”Technology is consistently growing, there’s always room to improve existing technology. I don’t think it’s grim. To me it’s very positive,”” she says.

“”My sense is that there is even more emphasis on outcomes assessment as a school and ensuring that when students graduate from the program that they can do certain things.

“”We try to build a foundation in a lot of areas so that they have the necessary skills to pursue programming, database work, network systems analysis and design. On top of that, students are given training and practical experience in working with some of the newer technologies. This semester students spent a heavy amount of time on the Java language on Java script, Java server pages. (Those) are really hot right now.””


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