GGC students receive regional, national recognition in IT

Students take top honors in IT competitions, included on provisional patent application

Student Patrick Musasa, IT faculty members Drs. Evelyn Brannock and Robert Lutz, and student Derek Donaldson display a software application that measures feelings within groups via signals from headsets like what Musasa is wearing.

Student Patrick Musasa, IT faculty members Drs. Evelyn Brannock and Robert Lutz, and student Derek Donaldson display a software application that measures feelings within groups via signals from headsets like what Musasa is wearing. 

Information technology students at Georgia Gwinnett College have earned a number of regional and national accolades this academic year, and have even filed for a patent. 
 
Students Robert Curtis, Derek Donaldson, and Kyle Dornblaser placed in the top five submissions for best use of technology in classroom or program in the Technology Association of Georgia STEM Education Awards last fall. Their entry, “Ursi,” is an original application, or app, that advances a widespread, student feedback system enabling instructors to query students at a moment’s notice. 
 
The students also developed a smartphone-, laptop- and tablet-enabled app, as a no-cost alternative to a dedicated device. Currently being piloted in campus classrooms, the complex app encompasses the students’ knowledge of software development, system architecture, information technology, human-computer interaction and user-design experience. The app also follows the trending popularity of mobile apps with Apple’s app store alone now reaching the 50 million mark. 
 
Donaldson and Curtis also submitted a research paper to the Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges-Southeast Conference (CCSC-SE), sponsored by the Association of Computing Machinery, the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society. Donaldson presented their work at the organization’s annual conference in November, placing third in the overall competition among schools such as The Citadel, Furman University and Wofford College. 
 
Curtis, Donaldson and Dornblaser have been part of GGC’s STEC undergraduate research group, which includes students ranging from freshmen to seniors, as well as a high school intern from the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology. The group is led by Drs. Robert Lutz and Evelyn Brannock, both assistant professors of information technology. 
 
Curtis and Donaldson were included by Brannock and Lutz on a provisional patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The patent combines EEG brain signals from multiple, human respondents and renders these as sound waves. This invention allows observation of patterns of emotion across a group of people and can be applied to areas such as health, fitness, education and entertainment.  
 
“The patent will advance efficiency across multiple arenas,” Lutz said. “For example, the application could help an instructor sense student anxiety or class calmness. Other applications could encompass focus group data collection, game playing or other forms of entertainment.”
 
All group members benefit from the research. Patrick Musasa, 38, a non-traditional student majoring in IT with a focus on systems and security, has coordinated weekly meetings and prepared symposium presentations. 
 
“The research project enhanced my leadership skills and reinforced a self-starter attitude, teaching me to work with minimal supervision as I move forward in my education and career goals,” Musasa said. “I also learned the importance of meeting deadlines and that a project’s success depends on collaboration and teamwork, values that GGC espouses.”
 
“The students have established a professional camaraderie amongst themselves and present their contributions and that of the entire group with pride and conviction in internal and external venues,” Lutz said. “Achievements in a group setting like this position students for leadership-driven, successful careers, and I’m thrilled to see them enjoy their experience and be confident in their collective work.”
 
Lutz and Brannock agree that it’s an exciting time to be a part of Georgia Gwinnett’s IT teaching community as opportunities to innovate, once only available at the most prestigious and elite institutions, are now available in smaller, more austere settings.  
 
Lutz attributes GGC’s overall IT success to small class sizes, allowing for high faculty-student interaction, educational innovation through technology, a committed mentoring environment, a strong commitment to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) engagement, and integrating research activities into as many course experiences as possible during the four-year baccalaureate study. 
 
“Given that GGC is a relatively new school, it is exciting to be part of an academic team that recruits and mentors our future technology leaders,” said Brannock. “I believe in learning by doing, questioning and trying different approaches. I’m glad to be part of an institution that empowers students to be the decision makers and drivers of their learning process.”
 
“At GGC, we’re part of the IT future,” Lutz said. “By challenging our students, and with access to inexpensive technology, we’re as capable of meaningful contributions and innovations as the most elite institutions.” 
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