It does not happen very often that freshmen students have an opportunity to work on real projects. However, for students of Internet of Things program at Lviv Polytechnic National University – it is a usual thing. In particular, during the first semester, they have been working with mentors and developing their own product in the same way as it happens in real IT companies.
Internet of Things program was launched in 2016 by joint efforts of Lviv IT Cluster and Lviv Polytechnic National University. Employees from Lviv IT companies are actively involved in the study process – this is what differentiates this program from many others. They deliver lectures from time to time and take part in the practical training. For instance, Natalia Kuba, Training Management Group Manager at Softserve taught a course “Group work” and Zenoviy Veres, Solution Architect at Softserve – “Introduction to IoT”. Moreover, during the first semester, students worked with a range of practical tasks. As mentors, IT specialists helped students to develop their own products.
For effective work, students were divided into 14 teams which had 11 mentors: Orest Vovchak, Marko Kuspis, Volodymyr Myhaylyk (Matic Insurance Services Inc), Tetiana Holubyeyeva (DataArt), Anton Minashkin (Epam), Yulian Ustyyanovych (Zalando, Berlin), Taras Romanyk (Conscensia), Rostyslav Zabolotnyi (SoftServe), Taras Makota (Luxoft), Viktor Artemyev (Devabit) and Yuriy Gnatyuk (KindGeek).
Product development, although held in labs, was close to reality. Students came up with the ideas themselves and everyone had their own role in a team: including QAs, scrum masters, designers, and developers. Mentors were organizing the work and giving technical advice.
The aim of the project was to simulate work in a real company:
“The basis of the everything are people, their coordinate system, their way of thinking and the ability to ask the right questions. Accordingly, starting from that I tried to build interaction with my team, paid a lot of attention to the mindset of every student. Also, we tried to focus on the business component of the project. First of all, we tried to determine what kind of problem we are trying to solve, find the right business model, think about our clients, market, and challenges that modern companies and startups are facing” – says Yuriy Gnatyuk.
In total there were 14 MVPs – minimum viable products which nevertheless are ready to be used. Among the projects were – an app in which students can see the attendance, grades and calculate GPA; an app which reminds you to do something; an online service where you can schedule a doctor’s appointment, an app which chooses a menu depending on available money as well as calculates the amount of time you have to wait in line at the university cantine; an app where you can book a table in a restaurant and order meals in advance; a tourist guide; a map which shows where are your friends; an app which creates an individual plan of healthy diet; an organizer which determines when you have to wake up in order to be able to do what you have planned; an app for students with schedule, online library and notifications about deadlines; another student service with schedule, notifications and notes.
Most mentors agree that it’s impossible to build a complete service in such a short time. Moreover, you can see that these were students working on this task:
“The task they have set would have required a team of five senior developers with 5 years of work experience. When we are talking about 5 freshmen, students without work experience – this is impossible”, – says Taras Makota.
Nevertheless, according to experts, students have learned a lot:
“During this time students have worked with tools, methodologies, and means that professional programmers use with real clients. This experience is really valuable in terms of understanding how can your future look like, whether you really want it and are ready for it” – says Rostyslav Zabolonyi.
Orest Vovchak shares the same opinion:
“The aim of the project – was to get a general idea of how “real” programming looks like. This is the criteria according to which I assessed students, and many of them got good marks (19 out of 20). Thus, I think that the majority of students have completed the task successfully”.
The quality of the projects was evaluated by a special expert jury. In general, students’ work was highly assessed.
“I liked the enthusiasm and motivation with which the students approached the tasks; as well as the number of technologies they covered, even if superficially, in such a short time. I think that in a year or two they will be ready for work in real companies. There are not only programmers and QAs, but also people with the potential of sales managers, designers, business analysts” – says Ihor Salamin, a member of the jury.
According to students’ feedback, they are also satisfied with the results, and happy that they had a chance to gain such practical experience:
“It was awesome, since we experienced working in teams. But what I like the most – now we have experience in building mobile apps, and if we want we can make a team ourselves and create an app that we have dreamed of. Also, it was really cool to experience some public speaking” – says Yuriy Pasternak, one of the students.
Not only students have learned something new, but IT experts as well. According to Viktor Artemyev, he has been waiting for a moment to teach someone for a long time:
“I’ve learned how the study process is organized, got some teaching experience. I have wanted to try how I send certain messages, how am I perceived by other people. That’s a really good bonus, I like it. I won’t deny that I might continue similar work”.
Internet of Things program – is a successful example of how IT companies can get involved in education development. In general, Lviv IT Cluster is seeing an increased interest on behalf of IT companies in projects like this one, so there might be more of similar projects soon.