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Computer Science Students Join with NCSOSE in Interdisciplinary Problem Solving Partnership

It started six years ago with a friendship between new Old Dominion University researchers.

Kevin Adams had been hired as a project scientist at the National Center for System of Systems Engineering (NCSOSE). Janet Brunelle was a new lecturer in computer science.

Through their friendship, they began discussing possible collaborations. "She asked me one time, 'Do you have any projects?'" Adams said. "Do we have projects!"

The result of that interdisciplinary partnership was on display at NCSOSE on Wednesday, May 8.

Throughout the school year, 11 students from Brunelle's Computer-based Productivity Courses (CS 410 and 411) have been working to help solve problems facing NCSOSE while it performs complex engineering systems tasks for military, government and private-sector agencies.

CS 410 is a semester-long course that plans a solution to a real-world problem, encompassing problem analysis, identification and evaluation of major issues, social impact analysis, development of management plans, and integration of business constraints into the generation of a formal set of project specifications. The project continues in the second semester by refining the specifications developed in CS 410, including system hardware and software analysis, cost benefit analysis and prototype development.

For Brunelle's students, it also meant real-world experience. "We found through these computer science projects they really got to know each other. It was just a tremendous experience," she said.

For his part, Adams said: "We are proud to have met 11 really, really sharp computer science students."

The students were divided into two teams. The first team, working under the direction of Adams, built a database to organize the various training modules developed by NCSOSE to teach system of systems engineering skills to engineers and technologists in organizations such as the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Navy.

Their end product "does pretty much exactly what we wanted it to do," Adams said.

The students on that team were Tyler Swayne, Chris Hauser, Wilshawn Alexander, Jacob Sims and Drew Carpenter.

The second team was asked by Patrick Hester, associate professor of engineering management and systems engineering, to take a different look at the strategic planning documents produced by the Department of Homeland Security. The goal was to develop software that could analyze the DHS materials and produce a simplified, "Cliff's Notes" version of them.

Hester said the work turned out magnificently.

"With the software, you can take any document and decompose it into all the elements of the English language," Hester said. He has been so impressed with the work done by the students that he has encouraged them to refine the product, patent it and attempt to develop a commercial application.

The students on that team were Brittany Johnson, Aluan Haddad, Scott Minter, Dustin Patrick, Erik Rogers and Richard Owens.

The National Centers for System of Systems Engineering is an enterprise center of ODU's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology that focuses on decision making for multidisciplinary problems. The center's mission is to develop, disseminate, and put into practice methodologies and technologies grounded in systems theory and focused on decision making for multidisciplinary problems.

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