Plans was built as part of the class design project competition sponsored by the City of Edmonton. My team won the competition.

The premise of the project is that a visitor is coming to the city for a conference. Using open-data and other publicly available data sources, the application advises the visitor on the various events, movies, restaurants, etc. that they could visit while in the city. The project takes into account the schedule and prefererences of the visitor and their friends when searching for and recommending activities.


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My cool CMPUT 301 class this Fall (2010)


This term I decided to do something risky: namely I decided to give a “practically” real project to my undergraduate software-engineering class, CMPUT 301, based on the City of Edmonton’s (CoE) open data.

The CoE is at the forefront of open-data initiative among Canadian cities, with Nanaimo, Vancouver and Toronto. It has launched a broad Open Data Initiative, which will develop an online open data catalogue for data managed by the City. The intent motivating the initiative is to enable Edmonton’s research and IT communities to create innovative and sustainable solutions. For example, MyStops and Route 411 are iPhone applications developed by local IT companies for Edmontonians using Open Transit data released less than one year ago.

The objective of the CMPUT301 project was to explore some of the possibilities around linking Edmonton’s open-data catalogue with other data available online to afford interesting services to anyone who wants to learn more about our city. More specifically, I asked my student teams to develop an application to help visitors to our city make the best of their time in Edmonton.

The project requirements I gave my students are shown below.

Imagine someone visiting Edmonton for a conference, who is going to be here for a week. The visitor’s days are pretty packed but there are some open slots for lunches and dinners, and — truth be told — our visitor is considering skipping the conference on the occasional afternoon. Moreover, our visitor has friends and colleagues in Edmonton at the same time. So, our visitor will use your application to get some personalized advice about what to do with his/her free time while in Edmonton!

Given his/her

  • preferences
  • schedule
  • friends

the application will

  • advise on restaurants, shows and events
  • provide information about how much they cost, where they are and how to get there
  • suggest friends who might have similar schedules and preferences and may want to join in the outings

The information should be intuitively visualized on a calendar and a map view. The visitor should be able

  • to explore multiple pieces of advice (if the first one is not perfect), and
  • to keep or loose any specific ideas.

Since I have been privileged to work with the City on another activity, I asked them to sponsor the project with an award for the top team and they were kind enough (and interested enough in this effort) to offer a $500 award for the best project!

In the end I had 11 quite interesting projects and the best ones uploaded screencasts on youtube:

In the end our CoE partners decided to give not only the award they promised (to the top team “charlie”) but two more honorable mentions (to teams “bravo” and “delta”) since they liked them so much that they could not but recognize them!

I am delighted, excited and pumped for more such collaborations! After I mark my 301 finals that is…

Original Article

U of A student app could become smartphone guide to Edmonton
Entry in computing science competition suggests restaurants, shows and events


EDMONTON – Anyone travelling to Edmonton for a conference could soon be using a computer application to help them plan their down time.

Computer science students at the University of Alberta developed desktop applications that suggest restaurants, shows and events for business travellers to Edmonton.

Users can upload their work schedules into the planner so the leisure events can be slotted into their free time.

Graham Swan, 24, worked on the project belonging to Team Charlie, one of the 11 teams in the course that was assigned this project.

He is in his fourth year of computer engineering at the university.

“I like the idea. I think there’s a lot of potential in it, just taking some of the work out of people having to figure out their way around the city,” he said.

Shaun Boddez, 21, was also a member of Team Charlie. Both he and Swan valued the practical aspect of the project.

“It was a great experience to work on a project which solves a real-world problem rather than a small, well-defined academic one,” Boddez said.

Eleni Stroulia, professor of the class, said she tries to design realistic projects because it demonstrates that software engineering is a “contact sport.”

“You have to work closely with customers, as well as with incomplete requirements and ‘not quite clean’ data sets, and you have to mediate between the requirements and the constraints to deliver a good product,” she said.

Team Charlie wants to make their planner available as an application for smartphones.

“If we can tie it all up and make it presentable on that kind of platform, then we would absolutely release it,” Swan said.

Stroulia collaborated with the City of Edmonton on the class assignment.

For this project, the students used information from the city’s events calendar. “We thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to introduce to them some of the things the city was doing … to give them a real-life project to work on that would encourage them to do more as they leave their education and encourage them to do some things that would really benefit Edmontonians,” said Stephen Gordon, the deputy chief information officer for the city.

The city provided a $500 prize for the team that produced the best application. Team Charlie won.

“It was a lot of work, and it took several hundred hours, start to finish, especially alongside five other courses, but in the end it’s all worth it, because you learn when you have to think for yourself,” Swan said.

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© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

Original Article

Student App wins prize from City
Alexandria Eldridge, Senior News Editor

A few University of Alberta computing science students real-world experience after developing a smartphone application as a class project, winning them a prize from the City of Edmonton.

The app was a team project in a computing course, and the development was sponsored by the City of Edmonton, who awarded the winning team with $500 in prize money, along with $250 each to the second and third place teams.

The students developed a guide to Edmonton, which was focused on providing activities for visitors to the city. The winning app had a map and gave ideas for users to spend their free time, based on their schedule.

Smartphone app a visitor’s guide to Edmonton

“The app makes recommendations for movies, events, and restaurants based on the user’s free time and preferences, and the schedule and preferences of the user’s friends,” said Shaun Boddez, a fourth-year computer engineering student and member of the winning group, Team Charlie.

Team Charlie worked 500 hours on their project, which is a desktop application that could easily be converted into a mobile app.

“Through the course of developing a mobile-inspired app, we learned that simplicity goes a long way, and creating an application which is visually pleasing and easy to use can ultimately be better than an application with extra features,” Boddez said.

Class professor Eleni Stroulia said that she wanted to simulate a mobile app because she feels the idea of developing something “real” appeals to students.

“It’s one thing to do something and to think about great ideas and to get a good grade, but actually at the end of it having the discussion of ‘we could build that,’ it’s terribly satisfying,” she said. “You cannot motivate people to work 500 hours just for an A. Don’t get me wrong, our students are highly competitive and ambitious – they want As. But that’s not enough.”

The project had several requirements. Software functionalities and writing code played a big part, but developing the user interface was also a key aspect.

“It has to have a strong user-interface component. This way, we’re interested in usability issues and in software engineering design issues.”

Stroulia also feels that the collaboration with the City of Edmonton and the merging of research and teaching is a positive part of the project. The idea to develop an app actually came from a City of Edmonton partner.

“We were working wtih the Next Generation Office Their mandate is to take initiative and just make the City of Edmonton an interesting place in terms of information technology,” she said. “One aspect of it is open data. There’s a lot of data that the city collects and some of it can be made available. So once you have the data out of there, you can see what people want to do with it. That’s the idea from the city’s point of view.”

Stroulia said there are no plans for the city to develop the mobile application at this time, but it could be done in the future.

The winning team’s video can be viewed only by searching “Plans Screencast” on YouTube.

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