CIT student-created Android app.

BYU-Idaho’s first administrator, Jacob Spori said, “The seeds we are planting today will grow and become mighty oaks, and their branches will run all over the earth.”

The BYU-Idaho Computer Information Technology (CIT) Department is fulfilling this prophecy by providing students with ample opportunities for real-world preparation and project-based learning experiences.

Over the past three semesters, a group of CIT students have been writing a web application for the University Store to help simplify ordering processes.

Currently, if a student needs to order an item from the bookstore that is out of stock, the student fills out a request on paper. When the web application is completed, however, everything will be done online on a tablet. The whole process will be more organized, efficient, and timely.

The work these students have performed has not only benefited the University Store, it has helped them fulfill a senior project requirement. Additionally, it has provided valuable learning experiences outside of
the classroom.

“Students don’t necessarily have the chance to work on a project in the real world,” said Tim Thayne, a computer information technology faculty member. “This gives them a chance to work a project from start to finish. Not only coding, but meeting with the users to figure out what to build and then getting some mentorship during that time.”

However, the University Store web application is not the only real-world project the CIT Department has offered to its students.

Each semester, students taking the class CIT 360 have the opportunity to program their own Android app and place it in the Google Play Store.

With the sky as the limit on what kind of app the students can produce, many have imagined and constructed a variety of creative and innovative apps.

In the past, one group created a calculator app that could compute sales tax, service tip, insurance rates, and investment growth. Another group built an app to help individuals keep track of required maintenance in their homes, cars, appliances, and more. One even helped fishermen select the right fishing lure based on the season and location!

By programming their own app, students learn how to use software tools that companies all over the world use to write Android apps. However, this class teaches students more than just how to program an app.

To complete this project, students are placed in groups of around six individuals. This gives them experience working in a team where each member is required to communicate and make their part of the project fit in with the whole.

“No developer out in the industry is going to code an entire application alone, and so this experience is exactly what we need,” said Evan Peterson, a student who recently completed the class.

Additionally, students learn how to recommend their app to be placed in the Google Play Store. This process encourages students to do their best work because they know their product will be visible to the public.

“The theory behind project-based learning is that the projects must be public to be meaningful to the students, said Rex Barzee, a computer information technology faculty member. “It makes them feel like they are doing something important.”

There are many learning opportunities available to CIT students through the university, but there are also many opportunities to work on projects for third-party clients.

Recently, the Idaho Cycling League requested the help of BYU-Idaho students to create a wireless network solution.

Student volunteers began working with the company, and upon further collaboration, were able to recommend an application to fulfill their need. These students were then able to begin working on the project.

By working with these third-parties, students are able to create solutions that are adopted and used in real life. It gives them exposure working with a client, an opportunity to apply the knowledge they have gained in class, and the satisfaction in knowing their work has benefited someone else.

Students also take this work experience with them into their future careers. The additional work experience looks good on a résumé, and they know how to apply this knowledge to other projects they work on.

“In my future career, if someone else has a similar project need, I now have the knowledge to go implement it,” said Daz Buttars, a student involved in the Idaho Cycling League project. 

Through the many project-based learning experiences and real-world preparation opportunities offered through the CIT Department, students are entering the work force equipped with the tools to succeed. They will continue to fulfill the prophecy of Jacob Spori and become mighty oaks who spread their knowledge throughout all the world.