Engineering Student Project Leads to Revamped Fayetteville Public Television Website

Fayetteville Public Television Operational Manager Dan Robinson discusses a rework of the station's web presence with computer science and computer engineering students Garrett Graham, Ryan Hutslar, Jacob Krusz, Teja Nakka, Blake Reed and Jan Timpe.
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Fayetteville Public Television Operational Manager Dan Robinson discusses a rework of the station's web presence with computer science and computer engineering students Garrett Graham, Ryan Hutslar, Jacob Krusz, Teja Nakka, Blake Reed and Jan Timpe.

When Dan Robinson, the operational manager for Fayetteville Public Television, realized the station couldn't afford a critical software update, he didn't know what to do. Bids for the project were too high, and the current situation had grown untenable.

It turned out the solution was less than a mile away in the College of Engineering's Department of Computer Science and Computer Engineering.

The problem Fayetteville Public Television faced was considerable. The station had been using a software package created in 1993 to handle recordkeeping for important aspects of the operation including equipment tracking, class attendance (FPTV offers courses in video production) and programs submitted for broadcast.

The final update to FPTV's software took place in 2013, and the system needed badly to be upgraded, but bids for the work fell far beyond Robinson's budget. 

So Robinson reached out to Frank Liu, head of the department of computer science and computer engineering, who put him in touch with Matthew Patitz, an associate professor who thought the issue sounded like an excellent capstone project for his senior students.

"I met with Dan, and he presented to me a very well thought-out set of desired features and functionality for the software that he envisioned," Patitz said. "It sounded like a perfect fit for the skills that our senior Capstone students possess, and like it would provide a fantastic learning experience for a group of students to work with Dan and FPTV to develop it."

Capstone projects are designed to give senior engineering students a chance to work with industry partners in solving real-world problems. The arrangement benefits students by providing valuable industry experience as they prepare to enter the workforce, and companies benefit from the expertise and fresh perspectives students bring to the projects.

The College of Engineering student team members were Garrett Graham, Ryan Hutslar, Jacob Krusz, Teja Nakka, Blake Reed and Jan Timpe.

From September to December of 2017, Robinson worked with the student team to define and design the functionality of the software. They created a user interface that would allow FPTV users to create profiles, register for classes, check out equipment and submit programs — all online. The interface would also produce comprehensive data collection for reporting.

The team built the software from January to April of 2018. In June, the FPTV staff completely overhauled the FPTV website to modernize it, which had not been updated since 2012, and to facilitate the new "Log In" button, which leads FPTV users to the student-built FPTV Portal. In June and July, the FPTV staff began directing users to the Portal to begin final testing of the new software.

FPTV became fully reliant on the new software Aug. 1.

"This is just another example of how the University of Arkansas is such a great resource for our community," Robinson said. "We're so thankful to the University, to the department of computer science and computer engineering, and to our team of software developers for making this idea a reality — helping us come up with a creative community solution to this problem." 

The FPTV team documented the development process, be sure to check it out here on the FPTV Youtube channel.

Contacts

Matt Patitz, associate professor
Computer Science and Computer Engineering
479-575-5590, patitz@uark.edu

Nick DeMoss, director of communications
College of Engineering
479-575-5697, ndemoss@uark.edu

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