PITTSBURG, Kan. — Aspiring app developers in a new Computer Information Systems class in the Kelce College of Business at Pittsburg State University have embarked on a real-world project to help the PSU Nature Reach program.


If all goes well, the university says, it could be a model for other animal care programs.


The class was created by instructor John Kuefler, who in addition to teaching owns the web and mobile app development company DevSquared.


"I wanted our students to have a real-world experience in creating something practical for a client instead of doing a mock assignment like a to-do list app," he said.


The students were thrilled.


"It’s really awesome to get from a class something that will be used in a real, production environment," said Tyler Webb, a senior in Computer Information Systems.


The students’ task was to create an app that will track the care given to the raptors at the PSU Nature Reserve under the direction of Delia Lister. There, a team of student employees feed the Harris hawk, owls, vulture, and kestrel a daily diet of mice, rats, and other small animals, and give them individualized medicines, but until now have relied on recording data on paper in a three-ring binder.


Lister wanted a tracking process that would live in the cloud, would allow her to check data remotely from anywhere, and would enable her to manage the data in order to generate reports.


The students began their project by touring the PSU Nature Reserve last month.


There, Lister showed them each raptor and described the process she and her student employees use to care for them. CIS students peppered her with questions; her answers will help them as they develop an app that is efficient and robust.


In recent weeks, the students have divided into teams to begin conceptualizing and designing. Soon, one of their app prototypes will be chosen for further development.


Ideally, Lister hopes, it could wind up being used by her student employees on a cell phone, a tablet, or a laptop to create efficiencies in the care process.


"Having this will make a huge positive impact on what we do and the way we do it," she said. "Ultimately, it also has a huge positive impact on the animals in our care."


Kuefler said cross-departmental partnerships are valuable.


"It’s nice whenever we can take students out of the classroom to do something hands on and practical as part of their coursework this semester, particularly with the pandemic," Kuefler said.


Most importantly, though, he sees the class and such assignments as paving the way for preparing more students for a career field that is growing by leaps and bounds.


"Think about how many apps there are now that we rely on every day, and what an incredible opportunity that career field is for current and future students," he said. "It’s a career field that is not going away anytime soon."