CSG Spring 2016: IT Innovation through Student Innovation

Julian Lombardi – Duke

Student life outside of classroom – integrated with lots of IoT technology. There’s an opportunity for universities to support new levels of engagement with technology. Can help lower barriers to innovation – create kinds of playgrounds. Foster innovation that is difficult to predict. Led by Academic and Media Technologies team.

Student – an autonomous, mobile, eating, and printing unit – Mark McCahill

Increasing emphasis on experiential learning on campuses.

Duke has an Innovation & Entrepreneurship program – foster innovation across the university. Lean heavily on the Entrepreneurship side – year long intensive programs.

Central IT’s role – serving students who want to tinker and explore, or who want to have an effect on IT Services. Innovation Co-Lab – help students create the next wave of technology for the Duke community.

Evan  Levine, Michael Faber –

Co-Lab established in spring of 2013.

Have a lot of students that know what they want to create. With today’s technology students can jump in and start right away?

How do you harness student energy? Pizza and t-shirts – cash is even better.

Inaugural Co-Lab Challenge

  • One project (called Hack Duke) created an API for institutional information (courses, directories, etc) by scraping sites.

Duke Mobile Challenge

  • Wanted people to develop for the DukeMobile app. Was too specific. Learned that students are capable of building to meet their needs if you give them the infrastructure.

Did a 3D printing challenge – a drill-mounted centrifuge was one project. Somebody wrote software that could scan a key that could be printed and worked in a lock.

Co-Lab Innovation Grants are what they use now. About 30 projects have come through since Fall ’14. Timelines fairly lengthy (> 1 semester). Amounts vary widely – some people don’t even need money, but want support and project management. Amounts range from $0-~$10k.

BioMetrix – Ivonna Demanyan, Gabby Levac

  • Develop a system to mobile monitor injury risks. They have an ACL tear prevention system – performs predictive analytics. Started with a Co-Lab grant. Now has a team of 7 full time (she’s a senior). Started with an Arduino strapped to her foot to see how her foot rolled. Been featured in lots of media. Mental Floss named them two of the most influential women, received Google entrepreneur award.

Space is a challenge. Currently have 33 3d printers. Have a lot of other physical computing equipment.

Co-Lab is going into new OIT engagement space. Will house research computing staff, media studio. Bring innovative students together with faculty and researchers.

FreeSpace – occupancy system for study rooms in the library. Use IR sensors to detect whether someone is in room, plus app to view data. Needed to incorporate data from the room reservation system. Projects are spanning gap across IT and innovation. Project didn’t work – implementation of that particular sensor didn’t work. How to connect students to institutional data? Needed a full stack software development resource –

  • Code Sharing (gitlab.duke.edu);
  • VMs (vm-manager.oit.duke.edu);
  • API service (apidocs.colab.duke.edu) – hub where student devs can come for keys and tokens and calls can be managed. Put together syndication server with node.js;
  • Local enterprise iOS app store – appstore.colab.duke.edu

Students were frustrated at the lack of an iOS print client, so they wrote one. Was popular enough to overload the Raspberry Pi it was running on – drove the vendor to develop a real app.

Mark McCahill

Big mismatch between classic IT organization and student innovation. Students want to get things done within the semester. Can’t take time planning and enterprise level reliability – here you can afford to fail. Thought they’d need a couple of VMs for student servers. Sysadmins hated the idea that students would have root access. Public IPs (in Duke namespace, but totally separate part of network); Ubuntu linux in a “RHEL shop”; patching; overcommitting VMs. Up to 22 or more images – will do almost anything that’s asked for. If it’s hacked it’s the students problem. Have about 350 VMs reserved, but not all are student machines – finding that faculty have timelines similar to students and are less concerned than IT about reliability. Ended up with early adopter faculty using it for workshops – really self-sufficient. Let the faculty build the image and then create it as a template.

Impedance matching with the registrar – students want access to data, but registrar is nervous about letting it loose. Ended up putting together OAuth infrastructure – have tokens brokered so students can opt-in to release their information to a single application. Students don’t like trying to Shibbolize their web apps – want something to work this semester. New stuff wants to use OAuth, so they’ve backed into supporting that. Finding that medical center is interested in OAuth support for mobile apps.

Approach this with the idea that everything you know is wrong will  allow you to provide support not just to student innovation projects, but a swath of faculty and researchers who typically are outside your central IT support envelope.

How can we identify and nurture this community?

  • 1:1 – Office hours – staffed by student employees as well as staff.
  • Many:many – Studio Nights. Creating community. Get together once a week, buy pizza.
  • One : many – up to now was focused on people who knew what they were doing. Roots program – the training arm of the collab. Taugh 32 courses, Linux, HTML/CSS, Javascript, Rails, iOS, Python, UX Design, Web Accessibility, git, 3D printing and modeling, Rapid Prototyping, Arduino / Photon. Some popular, some not.

John Board

Duke SmartHome – a dorm for 10 students. Solar panels, green roof, LEED Platinum, $2M-ish. 6000 square foot “live in laboratory”.  Was a student senior project. Had an all student project management team.

  • Lesson 1: No coupling to faculty research agendas – was a mistake not to have faculty at least peripherally involved early.
  • Lesson 2: Working with companies is exciting. Students cultivated sponsors. Enormous complexity in legal agreements. One management shakeup at the sponsor and they’re all gone.
  • Lesson 3: Institutional memory in student organizations is fragile. Constant churn in communication tools and sites – not sense of preservation of history.
  • Lesson 4A: “Safety? It’s ok, I’m immortal”
  • Lesson 4B: Dorms are special creatures under law.
  • Lesson 5A: Being a donation magnet is a mixed blessing.
  • Lesson 5B: Free, but with added lawyers!
  • Lesson 6: Predicting student acceptance is a dark art.
  • Lesson 7: Being an on-campus funding agency is great, but…
  • Lesson 8: The semester lasts forever (if you’re an undergrad). After first two weeks students are overcommitted.
  • Lesson 9: Matching freshman exuberance with senior wisdom.
  • Lesson 10: IoT Hell – it’s worse than you imagine. Highest density of device security issues on campus.
  • Lesson 11: Goals are good.

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