For my senior project at Luther College I worked with four other students to code a web application that will help building administrators track “lost and found” items. This was my first experience with a long term collaborative coding project, particularly one where we had complete control over our design and implementation. The application was primarily intended for building administrators, who would be able to easily add photographs of items that were turned in, as well as to look up those items later on when students came looking for them. As both a designer and a programmer, I learned a lot about aesthetics and usability.
My primary task was our guest user functionality, which allowed students to look up where their lost item is most likely to be. This feature presented an interesting design question. Building administrators need full access to the database of items in order to know if they have what a student is looking for, but giving the same level of access to students, or anyone who happened upon our application, would enable them to “shop” through the returned items and pretend to be the one who lost something they want. We initially did not intend to include any sort of non-administrator access, but that feature was requested so often that we decided to work out a compromise.
In the end, the solution I developed was to require non-administrators to input information about a specific item in return for information about which buildings similar items had been returned to. Students using the application could input as much information as they wanted about a specific item they were looking for without ever getting back anything more than likely buildings and contact information. By not telling anonymous users anything about the item entries being matched to their query, I hoped to prevent them from gathering enough information about any item to believably pretend to be its owner.
At the end of the year my teammates and I presented our project at Luther’s Student Research Symposium, where other students and faculty came to find out what we had to show after a year of work. In the interest of keeping the presentation fun to watch, we decided to show a video of the application in action and then do a live demonstration of some of the additional features rather than verbally explain the entire application to the audience. I wrote, directed, sound designed, and edited the following video, starring Hannah Miller and Josh Weisenburger, two members of Luther’s improvisational acting troupe, along with Teresa Flinchbaugh, an Administrative Assistant for Luther’s Computer Science and Mathematics Departments.