Schmidt, White, peers across Vanderbilt teach mobile cloud computing to diverse majors

Thanks to the Cross-College Teaching Initiative that began this semester, Douglas C. Schmidt, professor of computer science and computer engineering, and Jules White, assistant professor of computer science, launched the University Course Tackling Big Questions with Mobile Cloud Computing.

An integral part of Vanderbilt’s Academic Strategic Plan, University Courses count for credit and invite professors, mentors, and students from across all 10 schools and colleges to collaborate on answering the world’s most captivating challenges.

Ten highly diverse teams consisting of 11 arts and science students and 44 computer science students are being mentored by 11 faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Nursing, the School of Law, the School of Medicine, the School of Engineering and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. These teams are all addressing relevant, real-world problems involving mobile cloud computing technologies, including:

  • Effectively engaging young people with chronic diseases and medical conditions, such as diabetes, asthma and obesity.
  • Creating “smarter” cities and sustainable energy platforms via an app-based transportation hub for Nashville, and remotely monitoring the safety and operations of novel sources of power, including solar, wind and natural gas.
  • Helping economically disadvantaged individuals bridge the digital divide to obtain better guidance on medical and legal matters.

“Our goal was to leverage the unique opportunity provided by the Cross-College Teaching Initiative to foster and amplify synergies between students and faculty in the School of Engineering and many other parts of Vanderbilt,” Schmidt said.

White added that tomorrow’s workforce will have to develop, apply, and operate mobile cloud computing technologies to solve problems. “That’s critical to achieving lasting societal and economic impacts in many domains, so most students at Vanderbilt will need to learn and apply these technologies during their careers to address big questions they’ll confront,” he said.

Raven Delk

Vanderbilt has been a leader in mobile cloud computing research for years, but until now that expertise has been accessible mostly to computer science students. This University Course gives students in diverse majors the opportunity to work closely with one another, said Raven Delk, a Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholar and junior Communications of Science and Technology major and Engineering Management minor. She plans to use her communications degree in the tech world, so it’s an invaluable experience to work closely with engineers now.

Her team’s project is to create an app that makes Nashville’s public transportation as simple and attractive as possible.

“As a sort of project manager from the group, my job was to figure out the problems we were tackling and help specify the functionality of a mobile app that would address those problems,” she said. “I also worked on codifying and documenting requirements and creating the wireframes for a prototype of the mobile app. These were all skills that I never had experience with prior to this course.”

Jess Banasiak, a junior chemical engineering major, echoed Delk’s praise for a course that puts students with diverse majors on teams together.

Jess Banasiak

Her team is developing an app or platform for remote monitoring visualization and geo-based alerting for power systems – basically, conveying real-time data in readable forms so human workers can tell if there’s a system failure or other problem.

Banasiak said she’s learning how to rapidly respond in the design process when stakeholders come up with new needs.

“Requirements change — and change often — and there are also times when expectations vary from stakeholder to stakeholder or mentor to mentor working on the same project. That’s a microcosm of what we’ll encounter in the workforce,” she said.

By the end of the fall semester, students will create a web portal with videos from each team that will explain what they accomplished and how it’s impacting the community and the world.

Other faculty contributors are:

Abhishek Dubey, assistant professor of computer science and computer engineering

Pam Hull, assistant professor of medicine

Ole Molvig , assistant professor of history and assistant director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning

Ken Monahan , assistant professor of medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine

Shelagh Mulvaney , associate professor of nursing, biomedical informatics and pediatrics

J.B. Ruhl , David Daniels Allen Distinguished Chair of Law

Trent Rosenbloom, associate professor of bioinformatics

Heidi J. Silver , research associate professor of medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition


Heidi Hall, (615) 322-6614
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