COOKEVILLE – When Tennessee Tech University spring graduate Evan Sells began his computer science studies, he didn’t know his path would eventually take him back in time.
But that’s what happened when he, along with the rest of his senior capstone project team, partnered with Tennessee State Parks to create an augmented reality application that brings Civilian Conservation Corps scenes from the 1930s back to life at Frozen Head State Park.
“When visitors go to the park they can see while on a walking trial what it used to look like,” he said. “You’d never know – it’s just woods now – that there was a CCC camp there.”
The team, which also included Jamison Boyd, Jarrett Tice, Thomas Leisure and Simon Winters, referenced old photographs to create a 3D model of the camp. The app displays the scene.
Theirs was one of 12 senior capstone projects exhibited by more than 60 computer science majors during the College of Engineering’s spring Senior Design Expo Poster Session, held just before commencement. The event gave graduating seniors throughout the College of Engineering an opportunity to showcase and answer questions about their work while interacting with fellow students, faculty members, alumni and industry professionals.
For computer science majors, a capstone project is the culmination of their final two software engineering courses. It is an opportunity for them to apply all the knowledge and skills they’ve acquired throughout their college career. Teams partner with different organizations – or “customers” – for several months to complete a “job” that benefits everyone involved.
Autumn Davis was on a team that collaborated with Compassion International, a nonprofit organization, to create a web application called “Opportunity Connector” that connects poverty-stricken people in developing countries with free digital educational resources.
“The first semester, we kind of just learned the rules of the software world and stuff like that, but in the second semester, that’s when we actually started writing code and building the website,” she said.
Davis, whose team included Alexis Thompson, Jessica Bates, Kase Johnson and William Lewis, was pleased with the outcome of the project and the industry experience it provided.
“It meant a lot because our customer was so involved,” she said. “That made me feel motivated, especially since they are so involved with helping other kids across the world. So, it was great to not just be able to build software, like, for games. It was more than that.”
Sharayah Riedner of Compassion International visited Cookeville from Colorado Springs, Colo., to be part of the Senior Design Expo. She said partnering with Tennessee Tech’s computer science students was an “incredible” experience.
“I loved working with them,” she said. “They brought such fresh energy to the team, and I loved how they thought through the problems. … They got into the customers’ skin and brain and tried to figure out what they would need and how to prioritize what needed to be built first. I was super impressed with that.”
William Eberle, Ph.D., interim assistant dean of graduate studies and professor of computer science, and Jerry Gannod, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Computer Science, start the capstone project process by making connections with industry professionals to come up with project ideas. Students then submit applications to work on the projects that interest them.
“Students get as close to real-world experience as we can give them,” Eberle said. “Customers and organizations sometimes get a working product or prototype, but mostly they get to build a relationship with Tennessee Tech and work with our students – who might also eventually be their employees.”
Carli Williams and Keadin Hull were on a team with fellow seniors Bentley Burgess, Mateo Gannod, Ryan MacGregor and Jordan Myers. Their capstone project – a collaboration with Transcard, a financial technology company based in Chattanooga – was titled “Breadcrumb Fraud Detection.”
They were tasked with creating “a data pipeline that accepts a dataset from an API, formats incoming data, passes the new request to the fraud detection model and returns a verdict based on the model’s results,” as stated on their display board. This would allow Transcard to provide fraud detection as a service feature.
“We worked on a fraud detection API (application programming interface) – well, essentially, the pipeline between the API and the AI (artificial intelligence),” Williams said.
Hull said the project was “very illuminating” as to what is expected in the workplace.
“To actually manage something in an industry in an area that we’ve been educated in but hadn’t really gotten to see the guts of – that’s been fantastic,” he said.
Ganesh Krishnamurthy, director of AI at Transcard, joined the team during the Senior Design Expo.
“This is our first time working with Tennessee Tech, so it’s been a good experience on both sides,” he said.
Beneficial too. While students gained real-world, hands-on experience, Transcard gained meaningful improvements to its software system.
“We had an artificial intelligence model built out, but it stayed on the shelf because it was not yet integrated into the overall software system,” Krishnamurthy said. “So, the students designed the piece which integrated the model back with our overall software system. It played a crucial role in making it operational, making it production worthy.”
Tennessee Tech’s computer science professors gain satisfaction as well, having been involved in each step of the process of bridging the gap between student and professional.
“For me, it is the interaction with the students and watching them learn, struggle and solve real-world problems,” Eberle said. “It is seeing a team succeed and deliver something of value – not unlike what a leader in industry would enjoy.”
The other computer science senior capstone projects for spring were as follows:
- “Capture Dash” with sponsor SAIC and team members Daniel Brown, Jacob Latham, Caleb Lictenstrahl and Richard Mitchell.
- “EduNet” with sponsor Rural Reimagined and team members Andrew Al-Halawani, Conall Fisher, Jacob Ford, Cameran Green and Lukas Motykowski.
- “Electronic Clinical Record” with sponsor Predisan and team members Billy Carico, Elijah Cunningham, Peyton Johnson, Colin Lafever, Carlos Medrano and Nicholas Vlahakos.
- “Logistics Visualization Map Suite” with sponsor Averitt Express and team members Jim Moroney, Justin Presley, Johnathon Rich, Jacob Sweeten and Jacob Gable.
- “Predicting Potential Patient Issues” with sponsor NavSEA and team members Joseph Doonis, Jonas Fornehed, Jacob Hill, Timothy Kelley, Amanda McGuire and Robert McKay.
- “How to Create a Recommender System” with sponsor Cru and team members Ben Austin, Bryan Davis, Nathaniel Hynek, Daniel Steinmeyer and Alex Quarles.
- “Weather Retrieval Tool” with sponsor ORNL and team members Tavian Dodd, Chandler Hendrick, Brian Kemp, Bryce McDonald and Grant Qualls.
- “Alexa Integration with Connected Products” with sponsor AO Smith and team members Jake Brown, Brandon Cuskey, Reid Douthit, Bradley Harper and Cherokee Parker.
- “Model Visualization Project” with sponsor Urban Science and team members Waylon Garton, Brandon In, Peyton Nelson, Garrett Siedlecki and Joe Tomichek.
Computer science is the second-largest program in Tennessee Tech University’s College of Engineering and one of the fastest-growing majors on campus. To learn more, visit https://www.tntech.edu/engineering/programs/csc.