Programming students go to aid of boaties

When Auckland software developer Team Progress took on three students it tested them by getting them to build a membership system for the New Zealand Coastguard Federation.

When Auckland software developer Team Progress took on three students it tested them by getting them to build a membership system for the New Zealand Coastguard Federation.

The students were taken on as part of a work experience programme run by Auckland University’s business school.

The programme is part of a third-year paper for MSIS (management science information systems) students in which students are placed with sponsor organisations and treated as unpaid consultants.

Students Kim Assenburg, Jeantine Mankelow and Sai Nayagar worked with Team Progress’ Jonathan Belton, who was project manager, to develop a system enabling people to sign up for the Coastguard Federation’s new Coastguard Breakdown Assist scheme.

Coastguard Federation business development manager Glenn Rutherford describes Coastguard Breakdown Assist as an AA (Automobile Association) scheme for boaties. If someone strikes trouble they can call the local coastguard on radio or phone for aid. If the problem can't be solved on the spot, the coastguard will tow the boat to the nearest safe anchorage. Coastguards get about 1500 calls a year and usually ask for a donation to cover costs.

Rutherford says the federation wanted a way to get more support from New Zealand’s 200,000 boaties and decided to put up a website through which they could sign up as CBA members. Team Progress developed the system and rents it to the federation under an ASP (application services provider) model.

Auckland University’s Lech Janczewski, a senior lecturer in information systems, says the aim of the progamme is to get students to develop real working applications for the sponsor organisations.

“The students sign non-disclosure agreements and we ask the organisations to treat them not as students but as unpaid consultants. They develop the application from scratch. They must interview appropriate people, find the essence of problem and suggest and develop an application.”

This year 44 students formed into teams of three working for 14 organisations including Microsoft, The Warehouse, Team Progress, Vodafone, the Navy and Applied Logic.

Other students developed a document imaging system for The Warehouse, client web pages for Microsoft and a resource management system for Applied Logic that was sold to a client. Officially there is no payment, but at the end of the project organisations are asked to make a donation to the university.

Janczewski says about 30% of students stay with the organisation they worked with and all of them go on to full employment.

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