Student coding vigilantes to re-work FSU4U site

PAT DEPUY
Managing Editor

Professor Gregory Kricheldorf is turning instruction into potential real life experience. His CSIT 291 class will be completely reconstructing a mock-up of the FSU4U website, and present the finished product as a possible alternative to the current model. On a campus where it is mandatory for every Student Association (SA) group to sign up for and use the site, ease of use and utility are of high importance.
The main goal behind their initiative is to fix FSU4U’s current functionality issues, ultimately making it easier for users to navigate. According to Kricheldorf, current problems include dropped availability and “dead end” issues when a user cannot navigate elsewhere on the site, and are commonly due to mediocre hosting or poor development.
“We’re going to build a skeleton. We want the entire website to be maneuverable,” said Kricheldorf. His CSIT 291 course teaches a flexible web application framework known as Ruby on Rails (RoR) and will put it to use in the site’s redesign. The major advantage of utilizing RoR is that unlike other procedural programming approaches, the language is what computer programmers define as interpretive. It builds a web of easily malleable “object” definitions, where separate elements can be reconstructed without much of a fuss on the client or developer’s end.
“It’s very versatile and the code is very easy to use once you learn it,” said junior computer information systems major Greg Rowley. As one of the students leading the class’ management team, Rowley is already well-versed with the RoR framework.
RoR is a diverse tool which Kricheldorf explained can be used in a wide variety of mediums. In an earlier project through a company residing in the SUNY Fredonia Technology Incubator, he and his students utilized RoR in developing a video game. He explained that live streaming, social networking, and even GPS networking with laptop users are future possibilities. “We’re having a hard time figuring out what we can’t use this for,” Kricheldorf said.
Freshman computer science and computer information systems major Patrick Hodge is another student working alongside Kricheldorf. “With Ruby you can set up a database really simply,” said Hodge. “It’s all in one organized package,” added Rowley. They went on to explain that their system provides enhanced security against potential hacking or other tampering, based on the fact that it is streamlined and relies on only one database. Improved security could potentially be a significant aid to the website, as it serves as the epicenter of the campus’ SA group networking.
It is also a remarkably quick alternative to other methods of programming. The class has spent the first part of the course learning the RoR framework and analyzing their approach to the site’s construction. They now plan to begin the actual remodeling and complete it by the end of April. They will not be adding the graphics and content, but will have a fully-functional, user-friendly structure to which content can be added by a potential client. The latter brings Kricheldorf’s team to a whole different realm of possibility.
While they have not pioneered the framework reconstruction efforts in hopes of the school’s administration actually adopting their model, they are open to doing so upon the conclusion of the class.
“The whole goal to what we’re doing is to show people that this can be done; there is a better way of doing it. We’re building proof,” Kricheldorf claimed. He went on to say that there are very few schools teaching Ruby on Rails at the time being and the unique approach that the class is taking may gain attention. “This puts Fredonia on the map. You come up for a use for a website, we’ll come up with a way to build it.” Kricheldorf is confident that their experimentation will unearth valuable new uses for the RoR framework.

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