May 16, 2018

VSU Students Create Web App to Connect Military Community to Local Businesses

Zackery Weeks, Amanda Mitchell, and Brandon Corbett

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University’s Amanda Mitchell, Zackery Weeks, and Brandon Corbett have created a web application for the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce that connects Moody Air Force Base to South Georgia businesses.

The application is similar to a social media platform and allows military families to discover discounts, coupons, and events posted by area businesses. It also offers a listing of businesses that are Certified Moody Friendly, meaning they are in good standing with the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce and Better Business Bureau; offer some sort of military discount; and are willing to hire military spouses or dependents.

Mitchell, Weeks, and Corbett designed the application as part of a competition held in the Department of Computer Science’s Senior Seminar capstone course and in partnership with the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce.

“Since we have heard time and time again that there is a need to pull together the Moody community and the Valdosta-Lowndes community, we wanted to create an application that would be beneficial to the airmen and their families at Moody and show them what our award-winning community has to offer,” said Jeanette Stensgaard, membership director for the chamber.

Throughout the Spring 2018 semester, Mitchell, Weeks, and Corbett competed against six other groups in the Senior Seminar course to build the best application. The top four teams presented their projects in May to a focus group of current and retired airmen, military spouses, business owners, website developers, and code-fluent professionals.

Mitchell, Weeks, and Corbett were named the winning team for the overall functionalities of their application and the quality of their final presentation.

“The winning application was chosen because it met most of the requirements from the client (i.e. the chamber),” said Dr. Zhiguang Xu, VSU professor of computer science who led the Senior Seminar course. “It was robust and comes with straightforward and user-friendly interfaces, and it was built by a group of students who demonstrated a very high level of teamwork and professionalism.”

Mitchell, a computer information systems major from Valdosta who expects to graduate in Summer 2018, said she enjoyed being able to work with a real client for the project.

“It makes the whole project feel like it’s a job, not just an assignment,” she said. “It was a challenge and took a lot of research and long nights to get it just right, but I definitely liked putting up a good fight.”

Challenges for the team included using a computer programming language that was completely foreign to the team at the start of the competition as well as learning to balance the time-intensive project with jobs and other schoolwork.

“Prioritization was the hardest part for me,” said Weeks, a computer information systems major from Adel who expects to graduate in Summer 2018. “Trying to prioritize everything that needed to be completed for the program and also balancing this class with all of my other classes was a bit stressful. But the three of us are really good friends. We have worked together building other programs before, and we make a really good team.”

Corbett, a computer information systems major from Valdosta who expects to graduate in Summer 2018, said ensuring the web application was tailored to the chamber’s specific requests helped his team to win.

“It was a stiff competition, but I just think we had a slightly better looking design with maybe one or two more features that the client requested,” he said. “I'm happy we won after all the time we spent creating this project from the ground up.” 

Stensgaard said the chamber was impressed by the students’ “entrepreneurial spirits and fresh ideas.”

“These students did not just develop the app,” she said. “They really took ownership of it and created a project of which they could be proud.”

Camellia Jefferson, career readiness consultant at Moody Air Force Base and employment manager for Moody’s Airman and Family Readiness Center, was a member of the focus group and said the new web application will make a difference for the Moody community, especially for military spouses seeking employment.

“Connecting military families to businesses in the local community will increase their chances of gaining employment,” she said. “This will help to ease the burden of military spouses who struggle with the challenges of constantly moving and trying to establish a career, whether long- or short-term, during their stay in a particular geographical location.”

Xu said the goal of the capstone project was to “allow students to work on a sophisticated software application utilizing cutting-edge technologies; work in a group setup where collaboration among group members is the key to success; and, most importantly, work for a real client on a real-world application that serves the community as a whole.”

“All of our graduating students will tremendously benefit from such an effective experience after they graduate from VSU, especially in the first several years of their career as a software developer,” he said.

The work of Xu’s class and the partnership with the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce reflects VSU’s commitment to facilitating experiential learning opportunities for students and enhancing community and regional impact by serving as a resource to South Georgia and beyond. 

The winning team’s application, housed on its own website and run by the chamber, will go live this summer.

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